Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Of Mice and... me

The mice have entered death row.

They don't know it yet, but they will be killed in a brutal and horrifying manner: the mousetrap.

Mice will head for somewhere warm, but this year they're late. I don't know how they get in, I live in a two storey house, so anything is possible. But... it's nigh Spring and this is the first sign of the beasties. No matter. They are doomed.

Last year, I laid out poison. That was wrong, in so many ways. The next night after laying down the killer pellets, I was watching television. Then out from beneath the cabinet wobbled an obviously very sick mouse. I stared at it; it stared right back - accusingly, I might add - and wobbled towards the door. It didn't make it.

The next morning, I found it, stiff and cold under the couch, eyes open, blood around it's tiny mouth. Oh, the guilt! The anguish! I had killed a small, harmless creature, and it knew it when it looked at me the previous night. I put it in a box and buried it under the freesias. I imagined it's family starving, somewhere in the house, and other's howling with outrage at my callous and cruel murder of their colleague.

Actually, it wasn't that damn innocent. One of the miniature mongrels had chewed through a wire connecting the oven and fried itself, and the oven. I spent the next week hunting down and disposing of mortal corpses. One, at least, I didn't find until it was in an... offensive condition. It tooks weeks and plenty of incense to get the stink out of the house.

So. No poison. No. I shall use the tried and true method of traps. That way, I know where the beggars have died: right where I put the trap. I shall use small pieces of pear, or a dab of peanut butter to lure them in.

And when they are dead, I shall remove their bodies. I shall try not to feel guilty about knocking them off. This is my home; not theirs. I shall evict them...

And await for next year.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Tales of Woe

In a few hours, Category 5 Hurricane Katrina will hit the Louisiana coast-line. It will probably hammer New Orleans. As most people know, the city is below sea level and expecting serious floods and winds. For those of you who cannot leave, for one reason or another, good luck.

The Iraqi constitutional 'convention' has fallen into disarray with interest groups unable to reach an agreement. I have to wonder whether it was a deliberate ploy on the Sunni minority's behalf to, at least pretend they still have power. It's unfortunate that the Shi'ite's and Kurds are allowing them to get away with it. Of course, these are groups who can't agree on religion, so there's no way in hell they're going to agree politically. On the good news side, it means a re-negotiation of women's rights which were in danger of being curbed.

And cricket. Okay, we lost. Again. Should have batted better in the first innings and should have been able to hold on to those catches. Congrats to the Poms for a match well played. The only sour note was the issue of replacement fielders. Personally, I've always believed that's what the 12th man was for. Why is the fielding coach fielding? In a test match? Doesn't matter who won or lost, what matters is whether a fieldsman has the right to be there. Replacement for Jones, no problem; resting your bowlers and having ring-ins, not the gentleman's game, people. It is merely an indicator of just how ruthless Duncan Fletcher is willing to be to win the Ashes back.

I'd like to smug for a moment here: twice the Poms had an almost insurmountable lead, and twice the Aussies came within a whisker of winning. To the Poms it should be a warning not to be complacent. To the Aussies, it should be warning not to expect to win the Ashes as easily as the previous 16 years would suggest. Work for it boys, work for it!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Environment versus Industry

The native fauna of Booderee National Park are under threat, again. A couple of years ago, it was from bushfire. Now, it's commercial interests who want to build a small shopping mall and 800 houses in the native animal corridor.

Why is this such a problem? Because Booderee is on a peninsula. Where they want to build is the only thoroughfare for the aforementioned beasties.

I have no problem with developments. I do have a problem with developers only out for the main chance. Do the buildings have to go in that particular spot? No, I don't think so. There's plenty of open space further away from the peninsula that is still close to the beach.

It pisses me off that the local council has, yet again, ignored the wishes of protesting locals and local experts and granted business building permits. Obviously, money is a great motivator. How this idiot of a mayor got in remains a mystery since I can't find anyone who voted for him. But it's not just him, why isn't the rest of the council blocking this? Why aren't they listening to the populace? Do they even care?

It's nice that Booderee National Park has been formed, but what will it become if there are no animals? What will happen when the animals that are there start to breed within family groups? How will the extra population affect the current environment? More cars, more people, more rubbish, more impact on sensitive areas, and yes, more entrance fees to the park, more spending in the area. But that's a shitty reason to grant a building permit.

And no, I'm not going to talk about the *&!@ cricket!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bamboo under the nails

That's what it feels like. I've drunk too much coffee and smoked too many cigarettes doing this editing business. It helps that it's also part of Forward Motion's marathon this weekend.

It takes concentration to weed out everything superfluous and recreate the sentences so they run much more smoothly. It will be slow going, but I'm determined to get it done. My output so far: 10231 words or 36 pages.

Oh... yeah. The work is also helping me not to think about how poorly we're doing in the cricket, but that's a comment for another time.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Torture for fun and profit

It's Friday. WOOT! And I've got a day off. Bigger WOOT! So what am I doing with my precious, hard-earned free time? Why, torturing myself, of course, I'm editing one of my fiction books.

Anyone who says 'writing a book is easy' has never written one, no matter how true the words might be. The writing ,is the easy part but not in the way you're thinking. Remember that when you sit down in front of your keyboard intending to write that great epic roaming around in there.

There are many phases to writing: the spark of an idea, getting to know your characters, your theme, building your world, then there's outlining, plotting, working out how long your book is going to be. Then you can get down to writing. How long will it take you to do the first draft? A month? Two? Six? A year? More? How fast is your typing speed? Can you eek out the hours to do this? Is your family going to interrupt you at the drop of a hat? A few calculations then, with a moderate speed and no interruptions: ambitious page count, say twenty in a day, that's about 5000 words - at least it is on my screen (Times New Roman font)- that's gonna take you 20 days if you're conscientious for a 100k book, 24 days for 120k. Not quite so ambitious, ten pages a day, 48 days; not ambitious at all, five pages, 96 days, okay 2000 words a day, 50 days and so on. Not looking so easy now is it?

What about the genre? Are you even writing in the one that's right for you. If you think writing a romance is easy, guess again. If you don't love the genre you're writing in, it will show.

So, you've finally finished that first draft. Take a bow, have a celebratory drink, dance and laugh, hug your spouse, children, partner, shout to the world you've done it, because so many others out there have never written 'The End' on their manuscript. You've got grit, you've got determination, you've sweated, cursed, thumped your forehead on the keyboard so often you have 'wer' imprinted above your left eyebrow and 'iop' above the right.

If you thought that hard, you were wrong. The next step is to edit. You've got to leave your magnificent work alone to ferment now. You've got to walk away and let it stew. A month is good, two maybe, but no more. Now, you can go back with your list of things to look for: over-use of 'was', 'were', 'that', 'look', 'glance', 'just'... all sorts of words that will leap out. Then there are things like your characters motivations: would they really do that, say that? Are there plot holes, disappearing characters, scenes that don't advance the book, characteristics that change. You don't want a blond haired, blue-eyed hero suddenly turning into a dark haired, blue-eyed hero. So many things to look for: adverbs, name checking, tech checking, is the weather right, the timeline... And how long is this going to take you? Well, it's up to you, of course. The good news is the more you practice, the better at it you'll be.

This is what I'm going to do this weekend: edit - torture myself - to get this book right. After that, who knows? I might start the process all over again. I've got a great idea for a murder mystery. See there's this serial killer and he's targeting obsessive women...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Alpha Alpha Males

I've just finished reading a sci-fi book by one of my favourite authors. Great story, great world-building, great idea, great heroine, total PRICK of a hero - if you can call him that.

Until he turned up, I was enjoying this book. Three things wrong with the guy: Aggression, Possession, Obsession, the three things that, when overdone, make this guy a really good baddie.

From the moment this guy sees our heroine, he wants to possess her, must, in fact have her and sets about to achieve just that. He bullies her friends, is suspicious of any male looking in her direction and when they both save the colony from attack, he traps her into having sex with him. And he's not gentle in taking her virginity. Then, he starts dictating terms and what she's gonna do with her life, how he will see to their future by shutting down the project she has worked long and hard for.

Like any smart female, she tells him to take a hike. Of course, everything is downhill from there. Not only does he take steps so she loses her job, but gets her exiled from her family, friends and community. For a species that is close, exile is the worst possible punishment. When she is absolutely at the lowest, he says he can get it all back for her, but only if she 'marries' him. GAH!!!

At the end of the book, they are together, but I can tell you, this guy has no redeeming features. Not one: he even hesitated to save her when she is in mortal peril; it's her cousin who saves her. There is nothing about him to empathise with. There are hints, but they are not explored.

In another book, another series, same author, we have a similar hero. The difference is that this hero had a shitty upbringing. His past is explained. In the above book, it is not.

I was surprised by a number of reviews of this book, all of whom said how wonderfully alpha this guy was. No woman in their right mind would ever accept such behaviour. Not in this century. It might have been okay during the hey day of Mills and Boons' greek era - 1960s - where the young woman was kept in a lock room in a luxurious house until she came to her senses and realised her love for the evil, manipulative bastard (of course, he only kept her locked up because he wanted her to love him, like he did her) - insert back of hand to forehead here - but not today.

The disappointment is that his behaviour is seen to be acceptable, and it may well be, but only if we get an explanation, a reason, or better yet, signs that he is not beyond redemption.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Stupid People

Prime Minister John Howard has condemned Australians who try to smuggle illegal drugs into South-East Asia as 'stupid'. I agree.

I could be facetious and say they don't need any more, they manufacture their own - lots of it, but that would be stating the bleedin' obvious.

Like the Prime Minister, I just don't get it. There are signs in every airport, in large letters and numerous languages, there are handouts and pamphlets that explain, in no uncertain terms, what will happen should you be caught. What? You think they are kidding? You don't think you'll be caught? It will never happen to you? Guess again.

The high profile case of Schappelle Corby, the so-called Bali Nine... HELLO???

It's unfortunate for Michelle Leslie that she has been caught up in the targeting of Australian Tourists in drug raids, but there is a wonderful word out there, two letters, N and O. It's a mighty word and would have saved her a lot of grief.

Or maybe not. Let's remember that Ms Corby was convicted purely because it was her bag. No fingerprints were taken off the bag; neither the prosecutor nor the judge were interested in anything other than absolute proof she did not do this. If not Ms Corby, then provide someone else we can call guilty. Not even reasonable doubt could save Ms Corby.

So. The Bali Nine. Greedy, stupid, selfish people. They were caught with the drugs taped to their bodies. Nope. Aint got no sympathy for them. Their familes, yes. For the trauma those nine have put their families through because they wanted a 'free' holiday and some 'easy' money, they should stay in prison until they GROW UP! Not going to happen, though. They will all probably face the death penalty. I have no doubt every one of them is thinking they shouldn't have done it. Too late now, and they'd better not be thinking 'this is not my fault.' It is. You made the choice, you accepted the money, the holiday, the drugs with no thought of the consequences. You betrayed yourself and your families for greed. Stupid.

Unfortunately, in this case, being stupid, may very well get them executed. Is that what people need before they will pay attention? The sanctioned murder of our citizens? The Australian government won't be able to stop them from passing the death sentence. And before you weep and wail at the ineffectual government, remember this: you wouldn't allow a foreign nation to dictate how we implement our laws, so why would Indonesia tolerate a similar interference?

One more time, this time with feeling: DO NOT TAKE DRUGS TO SOUTH-EAST ASIA.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not a lot happening today, so I did a Mensa test that's currently doing the rounds on the Internet. Hah! Reached the genius benchmark and beyond. Didn't get all of them, but hey, there is such a thing as being an asshole about Mensa. Apparently, only two of the esteemed group answered all the questions correctly.

What that tells me is that there are probably a lot of 'ordinary' people out there who qualify for the group, but couldn't be bothered. Or worse, fear the same name calling they got at school. Intellectual villification. It's the same as racism, as religious persecution. Just because someone is different is no reason to curl the lip or spit or ignore.

I'm not saying share the lurve, because that's just not possible and is an unreal expectation. I'm saying understand; I'm saying being intrigued by difference, be curious and most of all be respectful.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Does he need a reason?

Topic of the day seems to be Cindy Sheehan's protest outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas Ranch where he is holidaying.

She has the unmitigated gall to demand an explanation from El Presidento as to why her son died in Iraq. Spc Casey Sheehan, 24, was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004.

The worst of it is that she has commented in the media about the war. Her words are not new:

We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy

I'm actually astonished that this is causing such a ruckus over there in la-la land. Is it because she actually said it or because she said it in a public arena? The critics of the war have been beating the foreign policy drum for some time, so why is this a surprise? Could it be that the American media has been censored to reflect the current policy rather than be *gasp* independant reports of the news?

Cartoons are many, most criticizing Bush Junior, and supporting those mothers who have lost sons in a war that should never have happened.

Don't get me wrong, I support our troops, sailors and air force personnel one hundred percent. They are doing a tough job, that is being made tougher by critics.

What I don't support is the way this has been handled. Has Bushette even heard of an exit strategy? Did Rumsfeld really need to finish the job that Bush Senior had started? Is the Bushling so hard up for parental approval he has to do what his father could not? Is it cynical of me to suggest that no leader of a country has ever lost an election while at war? Could it be that America's foreign policy is so entrenched as to be impossible to dismantle or change? Pitiful reasons, aren't they.

If ever a man needed killin' it's Saddam Hussain, for what he's done to his own people, to the kurds, for turning his sons into psychopaths. That killin' should have been done by his own people, not the West.

Why was Iraq selected when Al-Qaeda was clearly in Afghanistan and Pakistan? The argument of weapons of mass destruction could have easily been checked via humint. Of course, all this has been said before: arguing to and fro is not helping. What needs to be done is for the US to actually get their shit together and start acting like a modern, well armed and disciplined army. Take a leaf out of the Brits or the Aussies book and stop being such pussies.

Get on with the job, stop this incessant hand-wringing about x-country not liking you and how noble your pursuit of democracy is and come up with an exit strategy... soon. Because until El Presidento Bushling starts acting like a president instead of a little kid dressed up in his Texas Ranger outfit, riding a hobby horse, more good men and women will be killed on both sides for no other reason that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good for me, bad for you

So I'm doing a Diploma in Professional Proofreading and Editng. The assignment calls for editing a document, and I found one. The good news is that it had a lot of problems I could practice on; the bad news is that the magazine had already been published!

The question, of course, is how could the publishers let such tripe go to press. Answer? How the hell should I know?

It's an unfortunate aspect of the media to be more lackadaisical in its attitude, whether it is in content or style. I wouldn't be so concerned if not for the result of this laziness.

The written word, when it is in the public arena, should at least bear some resemblence to the English language. These days, the media is filled with abbreviations and misspelling. It's an unfortunate consequence that children pick up such knowledge and argue when corrected, because it was in the newspaper, magazine, on the television, or billboard.

The education system doesn't help, with some teachers singled out for poor language skills. The idea of 'free expression' should not be a part of our education system; truth should be. Kids will then know how to write an essay, a composition, a letter, an e-mail, a report. The Oxford research on the eye-brain readability of a paragraph currently doing the rounds is, of course, amusing, but also demonstrates a laziness that only encourages poor communication.

We live in a world where isolation from work colleagues (work from home), from friends (on-line chat), from shopping (send an order via the internet) is on the increase. With the preponderance of the written word in the above examples, we should be encouraging children to communicate properly, otherwise, they will be misunderstood and misinterpreted; and whose fault will that be?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Circular arguments

Circles within circles. If you haven't thought about it, that's what life is all about. On the physical level, on the mental level and on the emotional level. We are all revolving ever onward. Think about it, don't just click your tongue, of course it's stating the bleedin' obvious. Look deeper.

You meet up with a school friend you haven't seen in twenty odd years, you find a piece of jewellery you thought lost forever, you see someone driving a car exactly like your first one. Your mind immediately thinks of how that friend looked at school, when you last saw that ring, what you did in the back seat of that car. As a result, something in your life has come full circle. It's up to you to make what you will of it.

I recently bumped into the brother of a friend I'd had for twenty years. We'll call her Tanya and the brother Gareth. I met Tanya at high school. She was fresh from England where her dad had been in the Navy, now he was in the Australian Navy. She and I got on well, became very good friends. We finished high school and kept in touch. I could see, early on, that she was dissatisfied, but with what, I couldn't say - and that proved telling.

After being friends for twenty years, we were celebrating my birthday, as you do, with plenty of liquid refreshment. We were talking, a subject I remember well for it's strangeness: Darwinian Theory. At one point her face darkened. It was like a switch being thrown and all sorts of venom spewed out. She expressed a wish never to see me again or hear my voice. Still being relatively sober, I demanded that she be very sure. She was. That she remember her words the following day. She would, she promised. Okay. Nothing more I could say, it was a done deal. Twenty years of friendship, thrown away.

For nigh on seven years, I abided by her wish. She did write. Twice. Once to ask to get together, and the other to apologise for her behaviour and confess no memory of the night.

Then I bumped into Gareth. He said that Tanya had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had, apparently, had it for some time, although he couldn't say for how long. He also said he didn't know how to contact her as he'd found out she'd moved.

My first reaction was to help him find her, but I held my tongue. Circles within circles. The final tragic confrontation wasn't the first time I'd been subjected to her volatile mood swings. Did I really want to go through that kind of hurt again? Absolutely not. Did I want to help? Her, no, him, yes. Gareth I could help. Help him understand his sister's illness better by giving him a timeline.

I have no guilt in this, that finally passed the year she sent the apology. I knew then that she was ill, and wrote to her that unless she got help, I couldn't put myself into the situation where she might turn violent and not remember. I had broken the circle that had been around me for those long years.

It is not that I'm unsympathetic to her plight, but neither am I a martyr to a lost friendship. For me, that has been resolved. I'm sad that an intelligent woman should be on the downward spiral, but we all make choices and have to live with the consequences. Her choice was continued drug abuse and denial in that it was harming her in any way. My choice was to walk away, and sometimes, that's all you can do, if only for your own health.

There are many circles we face every day. Some are bigger than others, but all need to be adjusted or broken to be able to move on with our own lives. If we don't do anything, that situation will return, and return until we figure out how to make changes.

Watch for the memories, smile or pause in thought, but don't wait... Do Something. Make the choice and live.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Going Home

This is my first effort at blogging. I have blogs that read daily, so I thought I'd join the hordes. Whether this blog gets read or not is of no concern to me. This is my space; where I can rant and rave, gloat, comment, question, answer or simply post.

The title of my weblog, Homeward Bound, refers to a situation that I'm sure a lot of people find themselves in: that of doing things because others expect them to, not you expect of yourself. What follows can be guilt and frustration at going against your inner self, or a kind of fatalism, that doing something - or being someone - is a small thing to keep the peace or the comments to a minimum.

You're not being fair to yourself. And here's why:

Why sacrifice your dreams to be someone you're not? Your folks want you to be a lawyer, doctor, mechanic, house painter - or any other occupation - while you want to be a secretary, a nurse, a writer, an artist, hell, an accountant! There's nothing wrong with any of these occupations... as long as it's what you want.

For me, I went to University and got a degree in journalism so I could get a well paying job. I got that job and, yes, it paid a lot, but it wasn't - quite - what I wanted. It was respectable, it was challenging, it was lucrative, it was high-powered and I hated it. So I jumped ship. Now, I'm small fry, with a job that doesn't make too many demands on while I pursue what I've always wanted - to write fiction.

If I never get published, that will be fine, because I'm doing what makes me happy. Isn't it about time you did what made you happy?