Friday, September 30, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: Hug Deprivation Syndrome

I love Family Feud because it's funny and it makes you think. It's really great entertainment in my opinion. Anyway, I was watching last week and the question was - this was during fast money at the end of the show where the winning family tries to score 200 points in order to win $10000 - the questions was: what's something you do to show you love someone?

The first guy said buy them flowers, and the second guy said buy them chocolates, but neither of those answers scored more than 20. My quick answer was hug them, and surprise! surprise! (thanks Gomer) hug them was the top answer followed by kiss them.

Although there is much which could be said about this, I simply want to say that I like hugging, but I did not know how much I liked hugging until I moved to Darwin. One of the things I miss most is physical touch. I've shaken lots of hands because I'm often meeting new people, but I haven't hugged anyone or kissed them. Nearly two months without a hug!

Today I am giving thanks, in advance, for all of the virtual hugs that people are going to send me as a result of my sad story about HDS: Hug Deprivation Syndrome (of course it's a real condition). I'm also thankful that I only have to wait 13 more days until I can actually hold someone I love in my arms. I might not want to let her go.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

One Way Ticket to Mars

Everyone knows seats are available on Virgin Galactic for a quick trip into space and back again. $250K will get you on board. Needless to say, I am unlikely to ever be on a such a flight even if the price came down a little (or a lot).

Now I see on the news that billionaire, Elon Musk, who I had previously never heard of, has a plan for the colonisation of Mars. You can read all the details here: Elon's Mission to Mars Around $200K will get you on board for the journey to the Red Planet, except unlike Virgin Galactic's space jaunt, the trip to Mars is one from which you will not be able to return.

Knowing that seats on both of these flights will be booked out, started me thinking about the money. Two hundred thousand dollars. I'll say it again...two hundred thousand dollars.

Naturally I went to the fathomless depths of knowledge on the World Wide Web.

According to the IMF, $200K is roughly equivalent to the GDP of New Zealand, eight times the GDP of Latvia and 200 times the GDP of Samoa. One internet sage suggests that you could live like a king in Nepal for 14 years, and elsewhere I found the suggestion that 10 million people could be fed three meals for one day. So would you feed the people or fly to Mars?

What a dumb question! People spend money on all sorts of things that other people wouldn't even consider. What business is it of mine, if a billionaire wants to go and live on Mars? How does it concern me if my neighbour spent thirty thousand dollars on a boat which he uses once a month or so during the warmer months? Why should I care if someone buys Mills and Boon books?

I sponsor a child in Thailand, but I spend three times as much per month on cigarettes. I workout four times a week at a gym, but I give more than twice the cost of my membership, to my church. Up to me right? Exactly.

Meanwhile I'll be limiting my interactions with Mars to regular repeat viewings of the sci-fi classic, Total Recall. I bought my own copy of the mad is that?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: the NBN

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia's largest ever infrastructure project and was initially planned and commenced by Kevin Rudd's Labour federal government. It has been the subject of much political and community debate. Both the costs, and the timeline for completion have blown out significantly, but I for one, do not care how much it costs or how long it takes to build the network (although sooner rather than later would obviously be preferable.)

Australia is a bit behind the times with technology. Although we love the latest stuff and are quick to adopt new technology we always have a bit of a wait for it, and we always pay much more as well.

We have unlimited ADSL2 broadband with iPrimus. They contacted me yesterday with the good news that the NBN was no available in our area and we could now upgrade with no additional charges. We had to have a new modem which they would give us for free if we paid the postage charge. When I complained about that, I was offered a $50 credit, so we will apparently have a smooth transition to a faster and more reliable broadband service plus $35 credit (taking off the postage charge for the modem) I spent twenty minutes on the phone with the salesman, going over all the details.

The salesman could not say when exactly the upgrade would occur, but told me that we would be notified in due course.

Today I received a text message from iPrimus saying the NBN will not be available in our area until at least December...maybe. I laughed.

I do have NBN where I am living now in Darwin, and I love it. It is faster and more reliable, and thus far I have no complaints at all. So today I am thankful for my internet service.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Are humans animals?

When I first saw this footage, I instantly thought how unfair it was. One jackal could easily kill a seal pup by itself, and according to the narrator, one in four pups born every Spring in this area suffer such a fate. This is the way nature works: the strong prey on and kill the weak. There is an order, an ecosystem, a food chain. That's the way it is. Population control. There has to be enough food to go around, and sufficient numbers of seals are born each Spring so that the jackals and hyenas can eat and feed their young, and the seal population is not affected.

I can watch a video like this dispassionately because I am looking at animals, and animals do what they are programmed to do. They don't have choices, and they don't moral quandaries.

However, it struck me as interesting that my reaction to the scene of the attack immediately made me think of bullying. The jackals were picking on the poor pup. Imagine how terrified it was, but it wasn't bullying of course, because animals can't do that. Bullying is a human thing.

Most people abhor bullying, especially those who have been victims of bullies, because it's immoral. We humans know intrinsically, that for us such behaviour is not acceptable: it's wrong. The conclusion I draw is that although humans may act like animals, and sadly that happens a lot, we are not animals.

The naturalist will argue of course that we are simply more highly evolved animals. I disagree. We are made in the image of God: not physically, but in every other way. Watch the video again and ask yourself if you think a human doing that to an animal, or to another human would ever be considered acceptable.

The survival of the fittest is not a concept which should be applied to people, because we are more valuable than animals.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: A Long Awaited Flash

Some time ago - I deliberately decided not to remember - I launched my own short story e-zine. The prime reason for doing so was to create another marketing avenue for my novels. I have tried a plethora of tricks to draw attention to myself, and my work, and to gain followers, but when most of my family and friends have not been able to find the time or the willingness to do it, the results have been unsurprisingly poor.

Square Pegs E-zine was another idea for increasing my exposure. I also, as a veteran of sending stories to various print and online publications, wanted to offer a short story market with a difference. Very simple guidelines which I present in text and video formats, a condition (not a fee) of publication, which is that the writer has to follow me, and a reward for publication (not cash) other than what most markets offer which is 'exposure': a free copy of one of my novels.

I'm very happy with the product, but far less happy with the outcome. I listed with Duotrope who have contacted me twice already to make sure I am still active. I have received three submissions and published one, although the author has still not indicated his preference of which of my novels he would like. (Indicating clearly that he doesn't want any of them - ouch!)

I've put some of my own more 'celebrated' stories in the e-zine: a couple which have been published multiple times since I wrote them.

This morning, I awoke to find a submission to Square Pegs in my inbox, and it made me happy. I like the story. A tight little tale with a sweet touch of irony at the end. I will publish it as soon as the author adheres to all of the submission guidelines, but in the meantime, I will just feel happy about it.

Also happy this week to hear from Forge journal who have accepted my alternate history story The Death of Issac for publication in the October edition. This will be the third time they have published a story of mine.

I'm chipping away, working on staying thankful when sometimes I feel quite the opposite.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Women's fashion, milk and cars?

I’m based in Darwin now, but still doing the same job: teaching English as a Second Language. I now work with international students who are a completely different kettle of fish from the adult migrants I previously taught. My class is mostly comprised of Taiwanese students, with a couple of Koreans, and a young man from Hong Kong, and a young lady from Spain thrown in to disrupt the flow of conversation in Mandarin.

Today we were working on the phrase ‘I’m surprised by…’ As we’ve been tackling present perfect tense, I asked the students to think about what has surprised them about Australia since they moved to Darwin. None of the students have lived in Darwin for more than a year, some for only a few weeks. Their answers to the question were very interesting so I thought I’d share some of them with you, in no particular order.

Since coming to Darwin, what has surprised you?
  1. How many people sit on the grass, or on the ground.
  2. How early the shops close.
  3. How big the houses and the land are.
  4. How cheap cars are.
  5. How cheap milk is.
  6. How behind the times women’s fashion is.
  7. How many traffic lights there are on highways.
  8. How bad pork smells.
  9. How relaxed people are.
  10. The bad behavior of Aborigines.

 Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Celebrate the small things: My legs work

The incidences of me missing buses has decreased dramatically thanks to the Bus Tracker app about which I have previously raved. However, there are occasions when I still miss out. Like this morning for example, when I arrived on time-meaning before the bus was due-only to discover that I had left my towel and headband behind.

I considered my options. 

1. Go to the gym for my first ever pump class without a sweat towel and my headband.
2. Run home and grab the items and run back to the bus stop.

Option 1 would mean having to hire a gym towel because if you don't have a sweat towel they don't let you train. Option 1 would also have meant using the aforementioned hire towel more frequently than I would have used my own towel because my headband absorbs most of the perspiration produced from my chrome dome.

Option 2 meant running the risk of missing the bus, and generating additional pre-workout sweat and muscle fatigue in the process.

I took option 2 and missed the bus by three hundredths of a second. So I walked to the gym. It took half an hour, but I arrived on time for the class. After the class which hurt quite a bit-in a good way-I walked to the bus stop, but decided a fifteen minute wait was unnecessary. As I had walked to the gym, why not I thought, walk back. And that is what I did.

My legs were a little shaky immediately after the pump class, but certainly more than capable of carrying me home. Today, I am grateful for healthy, fully functional feet and the similarly robust legs to which they are appended.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A lounge, a bed and a manuscript

I started sending out query letters for my manuscript, Lovesick, at the end of June. As every writer knows, the sending of query letters and the waiting for responses is a tedious and somewhat angst ridden process. One day I am filled with glorious visions of publishing contracts and modest advances, while on other days I worry that no one will like it-not exactly that no one will like it, but that no one will like it enough.

So far, I have received two rejections and three offers of joint venture contracts. I rejected the latter. I was offered traditional publishing contracts for each of my last three novels, and in the case of the most recent, A Muddy Red River, I had a number to chose from. When I read words like 'we think your manuscript is well written, raw and engaging, and we believe it deserves to reach general readership, but...' I immediately think the editor who wrote such words is full of you know what. Words of praise ring hollow when accompanied by offers of joint venture publishing deals. Such offers say 'we like your work, but we don't think we can make any money from sales of it so we want to make money off you (the author) instead.'

One day. I will tell the story of a catastrophic (slight exaggeration) joint venture deal I signed up for, but for now, I'll just say this: I believe in the quality of my work, and I am not going to pay anybody anything to publish it. Therefore my wait continues. In the mean time I have begun work on novel number six, entitled Scorpion's Breath. I'm currently working on chapter 6.

In the famous words of Monty Python's Flying Circus: and now for something completely different, it has been approximately four weeks since I sat on a lounge or sofa, or even in an armchair, about four weeks since I drove a car, five weeks since I slept in a double or queen sized bed, and also thirty five days since I had a hug. There's no need to tell you what I miss most of all.

This is my life, I chose it and I'm living it.

Photo sources:

Friday, September 2, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: Retired from Cooking

It's not that I can't cook. I have a small collection of recipes that I do well, and I can handle meat and veggies with no problem. Once upon a time I even liked to have a weekly dabble in cooking something different, from a cook book-although the results of these experiments were mixed.

Back in the day, I didn't mind sharing the cooking duties. My fiance and I decided that 3-4 home cooked meals and the rest in take-aways and left-overs would be just the right mix for us. These days, it's just me, and I just don't want to cook. Even if I had a stove and an oven, which I don't, I still wouldn't cook. I've become a big fan of Lean Cuisine microwave meals, and I still love take-away food. Not junk like McDonalds. I'm talking about Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican etcetera.

Microwave meals are cheap, tasty and if the boxes are to be believed healthy. For between $4 and $6 I can have a satisfying meal after just 6 minutes in the nuclear oven. When I started eating these meals, I found the portions were too small and I would occasionally double up, but now my stomach has adjusted to smaller serves which is great except when I eat out and I can't finish the big meal for which I paid, and over which I salivated.

My system now prefers small meals, so when I order take-out, it will usually provide two meals not one. For example, if I spend $20 at Prickles Mexican, I get two dinners for $10 a pop.
In order to satisfy my penchant for variety, I'm working my way through the menus at my local take away restaurants and sampling all the different varieties of microwave meals in the supermarket freezer.

You might think I'm missing out, but I'm as happy as Larry. I don't know who Larry is, but I'm thankful for cheap, convenient and tasty food.