Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Trip to the Little Smoke

We had to head into Launceston today to get my lovely wife's CPAP machine serviced today. She bought a replacement seal for her mask which I'm hoping will enable me to sleep tonight; last night was like trying to sleep in a wind tunnel.

While there, we had lunch at a cheap and cheerful Chinese place called Dumpling Paradise. The dumplings we had weren't spectacular, but the other dishes we got were surprisingly good.

My achievements for today:
  1. I drove a round trip of approximately 200Kms for a combined business, shopping and medical purpose. I do love to multi task.
  2. I did a first draft of a letter I need to work on to our local MP, the Communications Minister and NBN co to plead the case for our little village to have them replace our old corroded copper wire telecommunications infrastructure.
  3. I managed to update this blog for a third day in a row, a feat I've not managed for years.
Baby steps still, but I am getting more used to doing this everyday. With a little more perseverance I hope to make it a habit and expand on my levels of achievement; inertia is a hard thing to shift so I need to put in some effort in order to build up some momentum.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A short update

It was a lengthy day today due to a couple of jobs in relatively remote portions of the Northern Midlands of sunny Tasmania today so a short entry will have to suffice.

My three things today:
  1. I took down and watered the plant that lived in our bathroom today
  2. I removed the GUI from my Linux based web server
  3. I managed to make it to this blog for a second day in a row.
I know, it's not much, but it's a start. If I can just keep knocking over at least three things a day, make it a habit and recognise myself for doing so I think it may just be a cure for procrastination... eventually.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Three things (minimum) per day.

Dear reader,
                   high past time I revisited this blog. I think I need it to keep on top of things. I'm  a chronic procrastinator and I need a prod to keep me moving so what I've come up with is a variation on Jeff Carver's learn at least three things a day idea. I want to make sure I document at least three things I achieve per day as evidence to myself that I'm actually doing things because at times I get a little down on myself for never achieving anything, one of the perils of slow times when you're self employed.

They don't have to be big world changing things. For example, today my list was:

  1. I've restarted (again) blogging. Something which I quite frankly enjoy but just haven't seemed to have gotten around to.
  2. I've done a couple of loads of washing that've been waiting for over a week to be done and brought in the washing that's been hanging on the line for the last couple of weeks, it's had more than enough natural re-rinses and airing by now.
  3. I started the idea of doing this achievement list.
  4. I've sprayed weed killer on all the thistles and other, now more numerous, weeds around the yard.
As I said, they don't have to be Earth shattering, but even just these simple things and the fact that I've acknowledged  to myself that I've done them makes me feel more like a useful human being again.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


This could well be the issue that the Liberals use to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the upcoming election. The proposed broadband project they outlined is breathtaking in its total lack of long term vision. While it may cost 2/3rd of the NBN at first, and be rolled out faster, it will seriously stifle Australia economically and technologically for decades to come.

In addition it has a hidden much higher eventual cost due to required maintenance of the aging infrastructure it piggy backs off. Think about the difference in buying a laser printer and an inkjet. The inkjet may be cheaper to buy, but the cost per page of ink rapidly eclipses the price differential. The price of on going maintenance of the copper wire network the fraudband proposal will utilise will increase each year till eventually we have no choice but to scrap it and roll out alternatives anyway. This makes the "Total Cost of Ownership" of the Liberal proposal astronomically higher than the existing NBN system.

 For a usually forward thinking guy like Malcolm to be backing this nonsense is hard to reconcile. I know I'm a geek and pretty sensitive to smoke and mirrors in technology legislation, but surely anyone who uses the internet, 88.8% of the population,according to ITU, can see this proposal for what it is.

They've not even tried to hide the lack of significant improvement in performance. All they've done is play with the word faster. Yes, it'll be rolled out faster, but the end result is not faster, better or cheaper in any way shape or form than NBN. We're already a technological third world country, this lunacy only seeks to ensure that we fall even further behind the rest of the world.

Now, some people may think "Yeah, sure, but he's just a geek out for what's best for himself and not the country". Not at all. Under the NBN roll out plan, my sleepy little town wont get anything other than maybe, if we're very lucky, some second hand ADSL2+ equipment for our exchange. At 120 population, when I'm here, we're too small a town to register. While under the fraudband proposal, we probably would get an upgrade. I just don't believe  it's in the best interest of anybody to buy into an already rusty old banger that's a gas guzzler too.

In closing dear reader, I propose some further reading on the subject. The following link is an excellent article on the misinformation being spread by those opposed to the NBN:

The top 10 NBN myths debunked

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream

Who the hell do I think I am. Sitting here in this freezing hotel lobby, in the middle of nowhere, pretending to be some big shot successful writer.
The soulless cocktail music spilling out from the hotel bar echoing around the hollow marble look-a-like foyer isn't helping me think straight either. How anyone in their right mind could ever actually enjoy what these lounge pianists perpetrate on what had previously been perfectly good songs will forever have me baffled. 
The bright bubbling notes spill out and flow into the subconscious somehow instilling a sense of mindless sameness. All the hotels and cocktail bars around the world seem to have the same second rate frustrated concert pianist. He may look different, not sure, who ever actually looks at them anyway? He may be theoretically playing a different tune. But somehow it all comes out the same, all meaningless unnecessary trills added where the original composer wouldn't have dreamed of putting one, to the point where the music is more trill than actual melody. No sense of originality, no evidence of an actual individual spark of imagination or initiative. The upbeat nature of the tune transforms into a dismal dirge when combined with the feeling of total futility that seeps out from them like a festering, oozing, puss filled gangrenous wound in their psyche. Infecting the room with a forlorn feeling of abject despair.
Sheesh! Back to the task at hand. I've got enough problems of my own without thinking about this poor hopeless wretch. Focus. It's so easy to lose focus in places like this. The mind slowly being turned to mush by the relentless tedious repetition. 
Smile, nod, shake hands. 'No sorry, I don't read submissions from fans at conventions, but do keep up the good work, I'm sure you'll get published some day soon.' 
I've got to make a start on my next story. I haven’t written anything since Dream Stealers. Okay, so it was one the most successful SF short story series since the Robot series by Asimov, but one freak hit doesn’t make a writer great. Ever since I wrote it, I’ve been looking over my shoulder. Stealers gave me the willies. I’ve been unable to stop since then, never staying in one place long enough for anyone to recognize me. Moving on from hick town to hick town, or worse yet, hick cities. Attending conventions where everybody ‘knows me’ but nobody KNOWS ME.
So here I am. Sitting here in this draughty hotel lobby in the god forsaken waste that is Canberra. The drab colouring of the glossy floors melding into the grey blustery day outside. Plastic pot plants intended to give a feeling of life, but sadly only managing to make the whole scene even more lifeless. Sterile, plastic, artificial. How any nation's capital city can be this dismal is beyond me, but then they all seem to be. DC was Dreadful, Berlin was Boring, Auckland was Awful, Moscow was... well it was Moscow, and as for London... I just don't want to talk about London, lets just say the English have taken drab to new heights, or should that be depths?
Maybe it's because I never actually get out to see the cities I visit. Never enough time. Too many people more likely. Too many chances of being spotted by the Stealers. Too many potential ambush sites. Every time I turn around there seems to be somebody who’s just turned their head away from having been staring at me. I feel as though my every move is being watched. The Dream Stealers are watching, waiting. Ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness. The first, and last, lapse in concentration.
This is ridiculous. The Dream Stealers are a piece of fiction. MY fiction. Okay, so I felt as though the story was writing me rather than the other way around, but it was still my invention. So why was I so edgy about the whole thing? They're not real. Are they? No of course they’re not! I hope.
Grey. Cold. Lifeless. The interminable music is the only thing separating this from a lunar landscape. The music, so thoroughly devoid of life, it is it's own barren world in and of itself. I can feel it pulling me into it. Sucking the spark of life from me more effectively than if I was lost in the vacuum of space. At least if I was in a vacuum, I couldn't hear this music.
It's so frustrating. I would say to the point of infuriation, but I can't seem to summon up enough enthusiasm for actual infuriation, not even a mild anger. I knows there's another story in me, I know it! I just can't get it out from under all this numbness my life's been reduced to.
I can't feel anything any-more. I can't remember the last time I did feel anything. For that matter I can't remember anything before I wrote Stealers. I know, from an intellectual point of view, where I went to school, I know where I grew up and with whom I was friends etc... I just can't seem to pick any specific memories of any of these things.
I can't feel any sort of connection to my previous life. It's as though it all happened to someone else and I'm only privy to the memories due to a sneak peak at some old dusty photo albums. I can't seem to dredge up memories of any old smells, all the memories are black and white too, no colour, not even any sounds.
The only sound I can remember is this god damned nameless bland unrecognisable piano tune. It seems as though it had a name once, but lost it when the trills and frills took over from the actual melody. Maybe if I could just filter out the additions in my head, I'd be able to find a way back to myself too.
Another flurry of activity from the main doors as the smokers come in from the cold. Bringing with them the smell of stale tobacco mingled with diesel fumes from the main road. The wind swirls around flapping the paper of my note book mocking me with a false show of activity. Activity I've not been able to provide it for over a year now. Head down, pen poised, pretend to be busy, maybe they'll pass by and not intrude on my private hell.
Pen and paper, HA! I'm an anachronism. A Sci Fi writer who still uses pen and paper. But then, my computer isn't portable, and I can't afford a laptop given that I've not actually produced anything for over a year. Pen and paper suit me just fine. At least I can work anywhere with them, in theory anyway.
Who’s that looking at me strangely from across the lobby? Did I see them following me in Berlin? No, nobody there, my imagination again. Hang on, who’s that behind the pot plant? I'm sure I saw her in Auckland. Gone. Over on the other side of the lobby, I'm sure I've seen him before, was it London? There’s been no one there the whole time. My nerves are shot to hell. Every shadow, every movement, every corner of the room holds a threat.
I’ve got to give up the caffeine and get some sleep. I’ve slept one to two hours a day on average since that damn book. That can’t be good. My dreams, well nightmares, must be overlapping into reality.
Reality, what is reality? I used to think a person was the sum total of their experiences, their memories. What does that make me? A frankensteinian amalgam of patchwork mismatching incomplete recollections. Is that a heart beating away in there, or a metronome, keeping time for the pianist of my, for want of a better word, soul.
There’s the chime for fifteen minutes to go till the next session. Thank god, thank all the gods that ever where or ever will be. I can loose myself in the crowd again. Laughing, joking, pretending to enjoy the company of my fans and fans of my fellow attending authors. At least when I'm on my feet “pressing the meat” as the politicians call it, I have an excuse not to be writing.
Never know, there could be a TV or movie deal behind one of these nondescript faces. This over perfumed over dressed matron of mindlessness could be the editor in chief of a major publishing house. That perfectly manicured, self important drone without a hair out of place on his perfect head with his perfect teeth could be the owner of a TV network. Maybe the guy in the torn jeans loose fitting shirt and a three day growth and dishevelled, thinning, hair could be a movie producer. Never know. Suck it up and get on in there.
Sometimes I need to treat myself as a recalcitrant teenager, goad myself into action. Odd thing is I do it, in a truculent sort of way, I actually do go ahead and go through the motions. When I mentally cattle-prod myself sufficiently. I'm just having to turn the voltage up pretty high to feel it these days.
Smiling, nodding, shaking hands... again. Grey woollen suits, grey faces, grey skirts and or pants. A sea of grey. Oh good, they've piped the grey music in here too. Or is it coming from within me now? Vibrating through the marrow of my bones, rattling around in the cavities of my skull, ready to burst out of every orifice. Maybe I've absorbed all this sameness to the point of saturation. It's getting harder for me to tell where I end and all this grey begins now. I exchange grey words with the grey people in this grey auditorium, all the while waiting for the grey speaker to make his grey speech. The same speech I've heard made innumerable times. Then we writers come up and make our grey little speeches, all the same as each other, all the same as before. Grey.
How I get away with being in the company of some of these real writers has me stumped. I’ve only got one major hit of a story behind me. I average about as many stories per year as some of them churn out in a week. Time I faced up to it. I’m a hack. A has-been who never was. Maybe I should just give in on my dream and get a 'real job'. Stop pretending to be what I don’t have the talent to do.
Wait a MINUTE. I never used to think like that. Not till DREAM STEALERS. Are they trying to steal my dream? Would it be so bad to be a humdrum work-a-day schlub with no aspirations, no imagination? Maybe the world would be a better place if I'd never tried to tell my tales. They can’t! They don’t exist!
There’s no one watching me from the table over by the door. There IS. He’s coming over, pulling something out of his jacket. Someone’s behind me too. The girl from behind the pot plant. She’s got something in her hand as well. Here comes the man from across the lobby. I’m surrounded.
* * *
Sitting at the bar of my favourite drinking spot, that I’ve never been to in my life. I don’t even drink. Asking Joe, the bar keeper who I’ve never met before but have known since high school, 'how’s the wife?'. 'Fine Charley' (my name’s not Charley... or I thought it wasn't) 'how’s Maggie and the Kid?' 'They’re just great thanks Joe, got another on the way.' Who’s Maggie? I don’t have a kid or any on the way. I don’t think I do.
* * *
Well, back to the Piano. These old favourites wont play themselves. I just need to add a few extra trills somehow, somewhere to this next piece, it never seems bright and bubbly enough without a few extra trills.
Singing... 'Stars shining up above me...'

Sunday, 27 January 2013


I've decided it's time I rebooted the project. My writing has been neglected far too long, and while I do have a lot going on in my life now, I can easily spare an hour or two every day, or at least most days, for what is essentially the cheapest form of travel ever invented. Coupled with my new found determination to spend time writing, I'll undertake to submit to my blog more frequently too. Maybe not daily, but weekly at least.

So, first thing I suppose I should do is a brief situation report since it's been ages since my last regular posts. As you may gather, if you've seen the sparse entries over the last couple of years, I'm now a volunteer fire fighter. I'm also a volunteer with a local SES road rescue unit. In addition to that, my Sydney helper has moved back in with his parents in Mildura, so I'm having to travel up to Sydney every two or three weeks for a few days to do things for my clients that I can't do by remote access. I took a break from my writing (and blogging) while I was applying to the RAAF, but that came to nothing so here I am again. In the wake of all that I've also gone back to University, this time around doing the degree I should have done the first time: Computer Games Design.

Now we're all caught up, time to hit the keyboard.

Stay tuned dear reader, I think I may approach it a tad differently this time too. Rather than submitting my stories to old fashioned magazine type publications, I may just digitally publish. Possibly even in this blog... something to think about for me certainly.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Never mind the Rabbits or Ducks, it's Fire Season.

Interesting times in Tassie recently with one of the busiest fire seasons for a long time. Not too surprising really given the last two where just about the quietest since the Tasmania Fire Service has been in existence. My brigade has been largely kept in reserve as most of the brigades in the area around us have been fully engaged. I guess it makes sense from a tactical point of view as we're not only kept fresh to fill in if the front line brigades are exhausted, but also to keep on top of spot fires, mop ups and any other regular fire that may crop up in areas currently understaffed as a result of the campaign fires being fought all around us.

We did have a call out to a fire half way up the mountain to one of our nearest towns last week. It looked pretty much as though someone had thrown a cigarette out of a car window. It set a small portion of the hillside ablaze. Lucky we caught it when we did as the gully got very steep very quickly. We just don't have the equipment to go chasing fires down areas like that and it could have posed a major threat to all the towns in our area if left.

Thoughtless acts like that are very frustrating. Late last year we had an encounter with thoughtlessness of a whole other order of magnitude. A house fire in a nearby town, one so small it makes Avoca seem a shining metropolis with our massive 120 population. This house had an asbestos roof. Asbestos, in this day and age! Haven't we had more than enough time to rid ourselves of this menace? I'm putting together a submission to any politician who'll answer me for a solution I've come up with that will guarantee it's removal within one generation.

I propose that on the transition of ownership of a property, whether through sale, gift or inheritance, an inspection must be carried out for the presence of asbestos and if it's found, it must be removed before said transfer of ownership can be completed.

Not an unreasonable proposition I believe, a little slower than I would have liked, but at least it will finalise the situation once and for all. I know it would effectively reduce the value of any house that has asbestos in it, but frankly they deserve to have a reduced value.

Asbestos in a fire doesn't burn, it doesn't melt... it explodes, scattering fibers everywhere. The TFS are so concerned about it, they have a policy that after fighting a fire with this evil substance in it, we are not allowed back in the trucks with our gear still on. We're not to take it back to the station either. We have to take it off and leave it in plastic garbage bags by the side of the road for the fire inspector to take back to HQ for decontamination. Driving back to town in our fire trucks in underwear is a sobering, surreal experience.

Two of our brigade, myself included, were called to the front line recently to help shore up the containment lines around a town not too far away from us. Shore up is a rather apt phrase for this area, known as Eldorado Ridge, once a highly productive gold field. There were unmarked mine shafts everywhere, some covered in debris and virtually invisible until we were right on top of them. It meant we had to be extremely careful of our footing... and driving. Some of the trails we drove our land cruiser up looked impossible to me, amazing what that vehicle can do, especially hauling 600 litres of water with us.