"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Friday, January 31, 2014

End of the Month Report : January 2014

Rejections: 4
Acceptances: 0
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 5
New stories completed: 0
Mood: Keep moving. Absolutely nothing to see here this month.

Free Wi-Fi Possibly Not So Free

I'm always suspicious of the word "free" in relation to services and deals, because usually such transactions involve data-mining and spamming and other modern headaches, and lo and behold my paranoia turns out to be quite reasonable, if not a tad staid, according to this investigation:

A top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News shows that Canada's electronic spy agency used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.
Plus there's this:

The document shows CSEC had so much data it could even track the travellers back in time through the days leading up to their arrival at the airport, these experts say.
Not even I suspected that level of nefariousness.

Hmm, makes you wonder about all those other "freebie" zones, usually sponsored by some product. Not that I've ever used them, but I shall stare askance at such areas from now on. Ah well, as the mutterings go these days, don't commit anything to the digital realm that you wouldn't be comfortable seeing up in lights in Time Square for grandmothers all over the world to read.

Because Horse Pictures. And Wishing Everyone a Happy New Year is Always Good.

The clock has ticked over, and since Friday has now arrived, I'll do a quick Gong Xi Fa Cai post, mostly because then I get to include some cool pony pics. Everything from wild to classic to cute.

So without further ado, let's welcome the Year of the Wood Horse a.k.a The Year of the Green Horse. As I've mentioned before, January has been a bit of a non-starter for me, so I'll use the lunar calendar as an opportunity to reboot and restart my year. I hope it goes well for me, just as I unrealistically hope it goes well for everyone in the whole wide world. Gong Xi Fa Cai !

And for a bit of colour, this is one verdict on babies born this year:

The 2014 Horse year baby will likely be an energetic, warm, friendly, intelligent person. He/she will be always happy and talented; he likes to be within the limelight. His positive outlook in life can make him out-standing among all of people. The horse baby will put the fantastic enthusiasm into their work. They will not give up easily, but on the other hand, 2014 horse baby may also become an impatient person who enjoys independence and freedom and perhaps their interests are usually superficial, sometimes, they will be fairly hot-tempered and unreceptive to suggestions from other people.

Horse baby - I love it. That almost makes this a Foalwatch post too...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jaws-Droppingly Stupid

So over in Western Australia, the solution to humans and beasts sharing the planet is the same old same old - the onus is on the animals having to somehow (instinctively?) comprehend human society and understand that if they don't adhere to human rules, they'll be justly slaughtered.

In a program to make the beaches once more safe for the good citizens of WA, the first uppity shark was recently snagged by the drum lines and shot four times in the head. Obviously, it didn't realise that the shark mitigation plan was already underway:


Maybe it missed the warning email sent out to all monsters of the deep by the government.
Anyway, scientists, environmentalists and folk from all walks of life who think it's a little unfair to cull a species because of communication breakdowns have signed a letter of protest, but to no avail.

Less blood thirsty methods of keeping our beaches safe - signs, tagging, patrols, protected areas, education-  have been tried and tested overseas, but they would be, well, apparently far more difficult to instigate than hunting down these nasty, vicious, amoral beasties to whom food is just food, even the talking sort, and slaughtering them. A lot less fun for some people too, I suspect. Drones patrolling a beach and people having to get their butts out of the water in the spirit of inter-species harmony is far too soggy-hearted a solution.

We visit the sea. We can come and go as we please. To kill the creatures born in the sea and who cannot leave  the sea and who are acting according to instincts that have kept their kind alive for millions of years because of our own paranoid belief that it's all personal and they're out to get us, possibly annihilate us, just makes us look a little silly. Our indignation at the way sharks ignore human specialness, and the resulting indiscriminate vendettas based on the fact that these "monsters" repeatedly refuse to understand that the supposed sanctity of human flesh automatically takes us off Mother Nature's great menu, merely show us up to be the ignorant brutes in this scenario.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Pay Off

So this morning I jotted 3 story ideas complete with titles in my trusty notebook, then took one of those possible tales out for a test run as I headed to the Arvo Job and wrote flat chat for an hour on the train this morning.

Ah, my brain is back, just in time for the upcoming long weekend. Now I can get on with things.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Go You Good Kids

As a 13-year-old, I was constantly incensed by political scandals and government abuses of power. Back in those primitive days, I would pour my anger into journal entries, vent my wrath in scathing English essays, at the drop of a hat argue with adults about how they didn't get anything, or, that old favourite, write furious letters to editors. I certainly showed them.

These days, politically aware 13-year-olds with get-up-and-go like Ben Blum from San Francisco become independent YouTube documentary makers and produce works like Data Obsession - A Look Inside Government Surveillance. His good work warms the cockles of my hoary heart. The fact that he cares about society and participates is inspirational.

So, just when you thought it was safe to write off all young ones as passive users of social media in thrall to their smart phones and Facebook pages, along come these bright, savvy, involved kids, doing what kids are supposed to do and going where a lot of jaded, cynical old folk are too apathetic to venture.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finnegan Begin Again

January has been a bust writingwise, and in a general getting-things-done way with too much Real Life taking up all my time and energy, so I think, by necessity, I'll can my 2014 plan for hitting the ground running from day one, spend the last week of this month clearing the decks, lining up lists and projects, switch to the lunar cycle, shake off this false beginning and make the upcoming Year of the Horse my new starting line.

Year of the Horse. Now that sounds like my kind of a year! I'm not sure officially what the predictions are from those in the know, but since I don't believe in that kind of thing anyway, I can make it whatever I want it to be. I choose to make it just like horse riding - a speedy, exhilarating, going places, wind in my hair, slightly dangerous kind of a year interspersed with leisurely rambles through forests, beautiful scenery, good companionship, and much chatting.

Yep, that's a plan. Bring on the ponies.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Because No Pain is a Huge Gain

So this was a week of heat, rejections, reluctantly leaving the cool environs of the Arvo Job to trudge the hot city streets in the middle of the day because of hospital crap, and, of course, the actual hospital crap. Now, the heat has passed, the rejections I've filed away in my head to deal with another day, and the hospital crap (I even had to go into the city yesterday! On a Saturday! What a waste of precious weekend time!) has paid off because I stayed drug free today, and tonight, for the first time in a couple of months, cross fingers, I'll be off to bed without taking any pain killers. The downside is that, aside from a few must-do chores, I slept away most of today. But now I feel good. And did I mention that there's no pain! Major win.

So let me tell you this very simple truth, which those with chronic conditions will already know, but which you will not be aware of if you're fortunate enough to be as bouncing fit as I was up until two years ago: any day without pain is a good day. Most people don't appreciate that fact until it's too late. Take my advice, and take a moment to enjoy your body if it's humming along nicely. Savour the feeling. Revel in it. Really.

Anyway, hopefully after two more trips this week, I'll be good to get active and productive writerlywise again. And I'll appreciate it, believe you me. I will savour it. I will revel in it. J

Friday, January 17, 2014

Have You Heard the One about the Nun and her Two Friends?

Armed with nothing more that a hammer and bolt cutters, they broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex, America's "Fort Knox" of weapons grade uranium, supposedly designed and fortified to repel terrorist attacks. I know I feel so safe after reading this:

"The security breach," as the Department of Energy's Inspector General later described it, exposed "troubling displays of ineptitude" at what is supposed to be "one of the most secure facilities in the United States." At a February hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, multiple members of Congress thanked Rice for exposing the site's gaping vulnerabilities. Eleven launch officers were targeted in a separate investigation of illegal drug use. But that didn't deter federal prosecutors from throwing the book at Rice and her accomplices: Greg Boertje-Obed, a 57-year-old carpenter, and Michael Walli, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran. They now sit in Georgia's Irwin County Detention Center, awaiting a January 28 sentencing hearing where a federal judge could put them in prison for up to 30 years.
Laughable security, corruption and drug use, then retribution for daring to show up inexcusable and dangerous system failures - this is another of those I-wish-it-were-a-joke pieces one comes across scooting about the internet, a physical equivalent of your Snowdens and Assanges.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

As Free as the Wind Blows

I thought we'd moved to a whole new level in our relationship what with the egg laying and everything, but no, after a couple of months of over the top friendliness and eleven eggs, just one shy of a magical dozen, the Chook has once more packed her bags and gone walkabout. About 6 days ago she started showing the usual time-to-move-on behaviour, and then on Sunday evening, she wasn't in her usual roost. I haven't seen her since. I'm such a fool. I should be used to it by now, I know, I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I thought she'd changed, I thought things were different this time, I really did... J

Ah well, the Chook is a restless spirit who prizes her freedom above all things. She cannot be bribed with scintillating, feline company, bought with first class food, or encouraged to settle for a mundane life of regular domesticity. She'll be back, or not, depending on her own whims.

In other vital news, it's HOT. Damned hot. Not-good-for-writing hot. Here in Victoria, the forecast is for 5 consecutive days of over 40 degrees heat. We're three days into it. In town early today, I saw that a few establishments were closed until Friday for staff safety reasons. Also, I suspect, they're not getting much trade. There are no tables outside anywhere - who wants to met friends and chat in a furnace? - and not many patrons inside either. It was the same in Melbourne yesterday. I was reluctantly out and about at 14.00, and usually bustling café districts were veritable ghost towns. People, if they absolutely have to go out, rush from one air conditioned enclosure to another.

While the first two days were hot and dry, since yesterday evening, at least up my way, every now and then, thunderstorms come through, bash the trees about a bit, make a cracking racket and throw the most thrilling and varied lightning displays, then dump a deluge of hot, fat raindrops that cool nothing but add buckets to the humidity levels. It's like we're having our very own monsoon season. Who knows? Maybe that's the way it's all heading.

So, two more days to go until we get a cool change. Onwards.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

This week was one of those just-get-through-it times with me trying to pace things so as to not to slide back into the Cold that Came for Christmas, negotiating an ad hoc transport system while they do maintenance on the train lines, and making it to the Arvo Job as much as possible (which turned out to be not very much at all) between a stretch of let's-start-the-year-with-a-round-of- hospital-crap. I made it to the weekend relatively intact, but no writing was done, so I'm catching up on bits and pieces today so as to set myself up for a more organised next week.

I did, however, get to see two writerly movies. After hospital crap late Friday afternoon, rather than head home during peak hour traffic, I treated myself to fried noodles, ice cream, and a movie no-one else I know wanted to see -  Saving Mr Banks - which still has me thinking about many aspects of storytelling. Australian born PL Travers ditched both her nationality (so crass) and her childhood name then reinvented herself as a British writer, used aspects of her own life to propel her Mary Poppins stories, then struggled with the idea of handing over her creation to someone she was convinced would rewrite the character. She knew the Disney populist version would swamp her rather stern and non-coddling nanny and turn Mary Poppins into a singing, twinkling, more sugary individual, and she was entirely correct. These days, when anyone thinks Mary Poppins, they think of Julie Andrews. And for the record, I adored that movie as a kid. But I feel for Travers and her loss of creative control. Unfortunately, Travers was broke. Backed into a corner, and fearful of poverty, she did the deal. Once more, penury forced an artist's hand. Still, she got to keep her house and was set up for life, which isn't to be sniffed at.

Anyway, I liked the idea of a movie about two creative people battling it out for their own version of a character, about popular entertainment versus literature, and all the layers of wondering how much of the real Walt Disney and PL Travers made it into movie and their various biographies, how much their own life stories informed their work, and how much they both used their work to redress the deprivations and wrongs of their childhoods. With the real lives and subsequent industry based on other writers' and filmfolks' interpretations of two such strong-minded individuals, there's much to sort through, and a lot of storytelling of both the truthful, not so truthful, and purely exploitative kinds to negotiate.

The other movie was The Book Thief, which also had many scenes to warm a writerly heart. I was told after the movie that I meaningfully aaaahed in certain places, which I don't usually do (how annoying!), but I'd say it would have been caused by me identifying with a young person who loves books and writing, and uses them as a calm focus to steady herself amidst the chaos and often cruel twists of our mortal existence.

If you're not one of those people who haunted libraries as a kid in search of Answers to Life's Mysteries and who views books as portals to other, often realer than Real Life places, then my behaviour is not something I can explain to you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Plum Job

So, I'm back after multiple failures. Firstly, I was clobbered by my Christmas cold. It seemed to be getting better at one point, then returned with a vengeance. Alas, not much writing got done during my holidays, but I did prod a couple of dormant stories back into life. I napped a lot, watched movies, ate ice cream, and sat a lot in the backyard on the swing with Gus (the other cats were too busy doing their own thing) just enjoying the weather and wrestling with a few story ideas. This blahness only started to turn a couple of days ago, so I stayed home from the Arvo Job today just to make sure I didn't push myself into a relapse.  Secondly, I had internet problems. No connection for daaaaaays and daaaaaays. It was awful, but I survived :)  Now, thanks to my older little brother's emergency dash across the countryside, things have been fixed and upgraded and I'm speedier than I've even been before.

In the category of country produce news, I beat the birds to the plums in the front yard this year. I made sure to be quick after last year's catastrophic non-jam making happening. This is just half of my so far plucked haul - the rest is on the floor - and there's just as much fruit still on the tree that isn't quite ripe yet. Hopefully I'll manage to nab the rest too, but even with what I've got, there'll be plenty of plum jam for the year. Now I just need to get a truck load of sugar. And clean jars. And cut up the fruit and...

 In even further country produce news, in case you were wondering, the Chook today presented her eleventh egg. One more, and she'll hit a respectable dozen. So there you have it - I'm practically self-sufficient when it comes to plum jam and eggs.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Aliens Favourably Received

Lazily scooting around the blogs before I sit down for my first session of serious 2014 writing, I discovered over at Alex Dally MacFarlane's blog that Aliens: Recent Encounters, the anthology she edited (which includes my short story Nullipara) is on io9's list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2013.  

io9 writes:

There were a lot of anthologies this year, including several with ambitious themes — but this one blew us away more than any other.

Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories, ranging from Ken Liu's "Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" to Ursula K. Le Guin's "Seasons of the Ansarac." These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today.

 Nice. Very nice. I'm loving 2014 already.