Friday, May 26, 2017

Celebrate the small things: a bit of greenery

Cities are not typically associated with trees. I know most cities have parks and they have trees, but, for me anyway, when I think of cities I think of tall buildings and lots of cars of people. Noise, street signs, advertising, busyness etcetera, which I think is the reason I like Darwin. Darwin doesn't really feel like a city.

There are tall buildings: offices, hotels and apartments, and there are cars and people, but not many. It's pretty quiet all around. It's also quite green. Our street, which is a short narrow one running between two main streets, has trees and even a grass verge to separate the sidewalk from the road. The two aforementioned streets are lined with trees, serious trees: large and leafy ones which overhang the road and provide shade for the smokers.

Darwin is a green city. During the dry season ubiquitous built-in irrigation systems sustain the faunic (another new word there - when will this end?) thirst, and of course when the rains come, the city shifts to a whole new level of green.

Finally, this week, I am thankful for the arrival of green into our apartment. Jessie decided we needed some plants on the balcony because, she said, it will help keep the apartment cool - even though that's what the air conditioning is for (I didn't say). I like the plants because they make this place feel like a home instead of a hotel apartment.

I reckon out of everything you can do to make a house feel like a home, adding plants is right up there. What do you think?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Celebrate the small things: Would you like a beer with your haircut?

Before any of you smarty pants want to comment about my lack of hair and the therefore completely redundant need for me to visit a hairdresser, I should tell you that the guy at the salon we visited had the same cut as me and he insisted that his girls 'layered it' for him, and told him it looked good.

Jessie Rose was the one who booked a haircut at HD Hair Studio in Smith St, Darwin. Reluctantly I accepted her invitation to accompany her, comforting myself with the thought that I would be able to get some reading done while Jessie had her wash, blow and cut.

Upon our arrival at the salon, we were greeted by the aforementioned handsome fellow, who offered us a seat and a drink. Water, coffee, tea, wine or beer? I looked at him wondering if he knew he was in a hair salon not a bar. 'It's complimentary,' he said. 'Yes,' I replied with excessive enthusiasm - because I like beer and 'free' is my favourite price. I have never heard of complimentary alcoholic beverages at hair salons, but I rarely visit them, so perhaps HD is not unique.

I had two free beers (Millers Chill with lime) while I read The Count of Monte Cristo on my phone and listened to a selection of 80s classics. 

I have never had a more enjoyable visit to a hairdresser and they didn't even touch my head. It cost $90 which Jessie assured me was a reasonable price, and she was happy with the cut so it was all good. Everyone's a winner, baby!

What's the service like where you get your hair done?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Perfect Timing

Author Jeffery J. Smith  will be awarding a digital copy of Perfect Timing to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Title: Perfect Timing
Author: Jeffery J. Smith
ISBN: 978-1-62420-321-3
Genre: Sci-fi
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1





TAGLINE
Accidentally sucked from the present, caterer Crik must prove he started the trend that led to the future’s utopia—or be returned to waiting bullets.

 BLURB
 Accidentally transported to the future, caterer Crik escapes house-arrest with Tepper, his possible distant descendant. While pursued by volunteer vigilante Voltak, goofball Crik explores Geotopia—where buildings grow, people incorporate animal powers, smart phones know it all, and vehicles defy gravity—seeking clues. If he can discover, understand, and articulate the future’s public policy that works right for everybody, he can prove he was their founder, the lone agent of change who put society on its path toward universal prosperity and harmony with nature. If he fails to convince the Futurite Authorities, they wouldn’t return their unexpected visitor to the exact second he left—something their law requires—to the moment when a hail of gunfire was bearing down on the luckless caterer and college dropout...would they?
 EXCERPT
 The image of a bellhop perches first on one leg then the other by the edge of a roof of a downtown skyscraper. Gazing downward, with both hands he raises a golf club over his head. The scene occurs on a large monitor.
Far below, the people look like a school of minnows flitting across the downtown central plaza. Others resemble tufts of beach grass clumped around street performers break dancing or juggling. The bellhop arches his back.
In a darkened laboratory, two wide-eyed technicians wearing white coats watch the monitor. In grainy color, the young man bends and stretches. Mouths agape, the viewers take notes and wipe their brows.
"This is your candidate?" the taller researcher says. "This golfer? Crik Duvall?"
The shorter one nods. "He's a bellhop, too."

~ * ~
1

At the wall atop the city's tallest hotel, Crik in the hotel's uniform lowers his club. The height does not frighten him, rather, the view always intrigues him. People sure look little, Crik thinks. Must be how landlords see us.
Crik takes a few practice swings. He steps back from the edge and tees up. He drives a Whiffle golf ball into the air without a hitch. The headwind blows the hollow ball back to him. He catches it. Yes! He replaces the plastic ball on the tee — yo-yo golf.
Lifting his bellhop cap, Crik runs his fingers through bleached streaks. Yo-yo golf will challenge enthusiasts of all nations, even become an Olympic event. I could pay down my tuition. Even help Randy with his debt. How dumb, messing with dudes from the vodka importers convention. What'd he know about ostrich racing anyway?
Crik's knuckles are tattooed with esoteric symbols. A stud twinkles in one ear but no weighty choker worries his swing. He's up to twenty-three straight successful drives-then-catches, closing in on his personal best.
The word "Fore!" rings out from a phone in his pocket, but he ignores it.
Steadying himself, Crik cocks his club for another swing and drives the white ball into the onrushing breeze.
"Crik!"
Crik blinks. The plastic dot sails past him, into the void. Zippers.
"Whenever you don't answer your phone, I know where to find you."
Crik looks over his shoulder, resting the club on his other one.
Randy lets the door close behind him. "My man, break be over." Also a bellhop, Randy has his cap is on backwards. As he crosses the roof, his body lags behind his head, his neck nearly level.
Like offering his empty melon to a guillotine, poor sucker. Crik takes out a twenty-dollar bill. "Another big date before next payday, bro?"
"Man, you are like family." Randy takes the note.

~ * ~

"'Crik'. That short for cricket?" People always ask.
No, Crik was named Crik because Brook was already taken; his older brother got named that.
"Oh, I get it," the hotel manager said when interviewing Crik, "Creek."
Crik nodded. His hair waved, didn't curl, despite him being the black sheep of the family. "Yeah, Crik."
Crik is too busy to finish college. How many decades would it take to pay off the student loan — a necklace of stone — anyway? Especially with good friends unable to budget themselves. Better to have a fun job. Make money and enjoy life.

~ * ~

In the gloomy laboratory, tall Dr. Alvin Ultra and his short assistant Yuri Ivanov, both middle-aged, emit gasps and wag their heads, jotting down notes.
The monitor, thin as a sheet, hangs from a ceiling in a high corner. It's cabled to a device shaped like an oversized dog biscuit with a sharp point like a syringe, big as a sled, some parts shiny, some opaque. Colored wires twist and run to other odd-shaped devices that whir and jerk.
Crik hides his club on the ledge beyond the perimeter wall.
Dr. Ultra glances at Yuri. "Neither of these two has indicated any interest in social evolution, never mind founding an entirely new way of viewing the world."
Under his beret and bushy eyebrows, Yuri shrugs. "Destinon said to check out this moment."

~ * ~

The two bellhops enter the hotel's darkened conference hall. It's packed like a tent revival on the eve of the Second Coming. Of course. Who hates money?
Strains of Wagner's majestic movements accompany the big-screen video of unabashed luxury: Acres of vineyards remind Crik of the south of France where he'd backpacked one summer. A sleek car barely looking street-legal swerves through hills.
"Tesla Roadster," Crik whispers to Randy. "0 to 60 in 3.7."
On the screen, a limousine grand enough for comfortably hosting small celebrations sits in the driveway of a mansion with the long lines of Frank Lloyd Wright draped over a seaside cliff. Inside, fashion models adorned with jewelry befriend vain hosts sipping champagne. Famous paintings hang on the walls.
Crik leans over to his pal. "I've a print of that Van Gogh."
"With his autograph?" Randy whispers.
Crik frowns. "Ethics teaches us virtue is its own reward."
Randy frowns. "Economics teaches that reward is its own virtue."
My reward would be to never get another bill, late notice, or harassing phone call.
A sharp-dressed salesman in a flawless Armani suit strides onstage. His shiny hair neatly styled, Julian Seizure keeps his posture erect and full-chested, as would a cocksure general before his troops. His blistering smile stretches his narrow-featured face.
Seizure fires his words forcefully and pounds the air with a fist, keeping time with his avarice. "Andrew Carnegie, a billionaire back when a dime bought you a complete breakfast, noted, and I quote: 'It takes hard work to amass a fortune in industry, but any fool can get rich in real estate.'"
Perking up, Randy whispers to Crik, "Did he say any fool?" His eyebrows bounce up and down.
The big screen shows slender beauties gliding in Olympic-size pools and robust businessmen driving golf balls a mile down the links. The pitchman exhales. "The old boy nailed it. Nothing else comes close to how much people pay over the course of their lives for a place to live. Directly or indirectly, a big part of everyone's spending goes to a lease or mortgage."
The sea of heads nod in assent. The speaker opens his hands in empathy. "Since all of us have been foolish at least once …"
Amid the sea of heads, only Randy bobs agreeably — until he sees nobody else owning up and slinks lower into his seat.
"Why are we not all very well off?" The instant-riches guru taps his skull. "Foresight." Seizure stares down his audience. "It's not speculation when you see what's coming."
Crik snorts. Too good to be true. "Why can't telling the unvarnished truth work to sell?"
"I believe!" Randy says.
"Time to go, bro." Crik tugs his friend's sleeve. "I've a better idea. You think Seizure plays golf?"

 AUTHOR BIO:

 Jeffery J. Smith’s credits are in nonfiction, being published in both the popular and academic press on “geonomics” (ecological economics). Before switching to fiction, he edited the news site, the Progress Report and contributed regularly to TruthOut. His newsletter, The Geonomist, won a California Greenlight Award. He taught both English and composition and was a graduate scholar in linguistics. An inventor of games and engines, he lives on the West Coast and winters in Latin America, listening to tall tales.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Celebrate the small things: returning to sugar

With the 2017 A - Z Blogging Challenge done and dusted, life has returned to normal - whatever normal is. I have new blog buddies, new heavy metal bands to enjoy and time to write. My long neglected WIP awaits nought but the return of inspiration and drive.

At work, after four short weeks due to a procession of public holidays concluding with May Day (which I didn't even know about until the Friday before), my pay packets will return this week to full, thus permitting my financial belt to be loosened.

About two months ago, an alien starting growing on my forearm. Initially diagnosed as a wart and treated as such, it eventually became apparent that this alien was not a wart. It turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma which is a non melanoma form of skin cancer. Having been named and shamed by a skin specialist, the alien invader was removed with a scalpel and I received six stitches in its place. The stitches were removed last Friday and as a result, today I was able to return to the gym. Speaking of results; tests conducted on the alien showed it was non-malignant and I am in the clear. Thank God.

For reasons I won't go into now, I had been using white sugar in my tea since shifting to the Top End, but with the move into my new CBD apartment, I have returned to raw sugar, and bless me, it is great. I love the smell of raw sugar and it tastes sweeter too I reckon.

How has your week been? Any returns?

Roughly two out of every three Australians will be treated for some form of skin cancer by the time they reach 70. 750 000 people are treated for no-melanoma cancers every year, and the incidence is almost double for men compared to women.
a pictorial guide to skin cancer

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge reflections post

Let the reflective countdown begin:

"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror; but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." - 1 Corinthians 13:12

5. Five reasons why this worked:

1.     The switch from a linkylist to using Facebook posts was a master stroke by the A - Z team. Much easier to participate and only active participants posted.
2.     I met, as always (this was my 4th year in the Challenge), some new people, discovered some cool blogs and learned a few things.
3.     From most of the blogs I visited and commented on, I received reciprocal action.
4.     I successfully challenged some people's perceptions of heavy metal.
5.     I enjoyed myself through discovering a whole bunch of new bands and expanding my knowledge of the diversity of my favourite music genre.

4. Four new bands I now want to hear more of because I've 'fallen in love" with them:

1.     A Breach of Silence (Australian metalcore)
2.     Hiranya (Spanish metalcore)
3.     Insomnium (Finnish melodic death metal)
4.     Taberah (Australian heavy metal)

3. Three bands which just missed the 26 cut. There were other worthy contenders but three notables who were very close were:

1.     Nightwitch   (US heavy metal)
2.     Barbie on Death Trip (German metalcore)
3.     Barbarion (Australian parodic metal)

2. Two top commentors. My thanks to all who visited and commented, but in particular let me name the following bloggers:
  1. Keith Hillman Keith's Ramblings
  2. Geraint Issit Penguin Ponderings
1. One reason why this was my best year so far in the A - Z: 
This year I wrote for myself. I wasn't trying to sell/promote my books, or increase traffic to/followers of my blog, I simply wrote about one of my passions. I guessed it would not be popular, but that wasn't the point. I write for myself, and that is the biggest thing I am taking away from the challenge this year.

I wish success and happiness to all of you, however you define those things, and I'll catch in 2018.