Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last Call for 2005

Today, apparently, is the day for reflection and renewal; reflection on all that you've achieved this year and renewal for everything you hope to achieve in the coming year.

Everyone makes 'resolutions' - and I'm no different - but how many actually keep them? I know I haven't, the bathroom scales tell me so and it wouldn't lie to me (damn it!). Starting the New Year with the best of intentions is fine, however by the beginning of February, I'm thinking just about everyone has forgotten their pledge or found it too difficult, too boring, too... whatever. One good thing about New Year's Resolutions is that you can always give them up for Lent.

And speaking of which, the latest catalogue for Woolworths Fresh Food has Easter Buns! Yep, the Hot Cross Buns are out there already - although they are not branded as such. I dunno: a fruit bun in a group of six/eight with a white cross on the top says Hot Cross Bun to me. What's up with that?

But I digress. Resolutions. Should you make them? In the moment, when the fireworks are exploding in pretty colours, people are hugging or laying a big, fat juicy one on someone, they're probably spoken with a great deal of honesty and energy.

Once the hangover clears, the OMG moment arrives. Witnesses will remind you of those ill-thought words when you least want them. If you're a person who sticks to your word, you'll give it your best shot. If not, it's 'was I drunk at the time? Then it doesn't count'. Especially if you've promised to cure your fear of heights by jumping out of a perfectly good plane with a backpack hopefully stuffed with a parachute, or that you're going to be nicer to your worst enemy, or, in fact, that you're going to cure any well-used and beloved phobia.

I will probably make the same resolutions I always make, but this time, I'd better stick to them - for health reasons. I'm not a spur of the moment resolution-maker, I think about it, plan for it and then try to execute the aforementioned plan.

Maybe this time next year, I shall be a svelte non-smoker; then again, I may still be an overweight smoker lamenting the lost determination - or dead. Who the hell knows? There are plenty of buses and knuckle-headed tourists out there to run me over.

Anyway, have a safe and enjoyable New Year, and watch out for people demanding to know what your resolution/s is/are. Just smile benignly at them: it's none of their business.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Visitations and monsters

Nah, not those kinds of visitation, but the ones I inevitably forgot about that happen at this time of year: the relos. Not just Boxing Day either...

I like my peace and quiet to do things I like, not be forced into by others. Good manners, however, prevail and for the past five days they've arrived, fed, been watered, had their children chastised in a variety of ways and gone their happy way, while I have just wanted to say 'clear orf and take your loud, obnoxious children with you'.

I confess that I have a neat game to play on my computer. One I've been waiting to play for some time. The problem has been that I didn't have the hardware to do it. With the post-Christmas sales, I went out early, spied my prey and hunted that sucker down. Handy-dandy screwdriver in hand, the video accelerator went in, system rebooted, game loaded and, mwahaha! Return to Castle Wolfenstein is up and running! (I also have Doom 3, but one game at a time.)

Sure, by today's standard their old and outmoded - hell, hasn't everyone played them and lost interest? Not me. Patience has been rewarded. I'm not paying a hundred bucks for a game, so I waited until both games were on special and scooped them up.

The graphics are terrific, the movements smooth, the movie cutaways are okay - I really don't need to see perfectly rendered monsters, I can create my own nightmares - and the missions are cool. Now, I only needed to find the time between visits of small people to be able to play. The games are unsuitable for them to even watch and I don't want to explain things to them. The argument about whether computer games encourage violence is not one I'm going to get into here, it would take too long.

So. Today, the last of my bulk visitors leave, without one niece who's with me for another week - she's twelve, she understands her aunt's need to kill things - and the peace and quiet should descend once more with the occasional admonition that we go to the beach, the movies, whatever. I can handle that, as long as I get to play.

Of course, I had to stop the other night, the music was too sinister and the monsters attacked rather suddenly. Creeped me out. I like that in a game.

The aforementioned niece is getting antsy. She likes to be with me, no matter what I'm doing. It's a sunny day. I think I hear the beach and the waves calling. BJ will have to wait a little longer before gunning down those nasty creatures.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The meaning of love

Before I race off and do the final Christmas preparations, I thought I'd share this with you. It comes from Adwoff, Nora Robert's bulletin board:

What does love mean?

Touching words from the mouth of babes.

What does Love mean? A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."
Rebecca- age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
Emily - age 8

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"
Nikka - age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."
Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."
Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody; You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."
Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."
Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." (what an image)
Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross."
Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."
Jessica - age 8

And my personal favourite:

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
Bobby - age 7

I think everyone should take Bobby's words to heart.

Have a safe and fulfilling Christmas.

Christmas Roast

It's going to be a normal Christmas. Ick.

At this time of the morning, it's usually just warming up. Not today. Nuh uh. Today is barbeque day. At 5.30 in the am, as the sun rose, it was already 30 degrees; celsius, not fahrenheit. By 9.00 am, 35 degrees. Humidity? 18 percent.

As a child, it was great. We would dash down the beach and stay until lunch, race home and feed, then return until the sun lowered in the western sky. Some days, we'd be home earlier to watch the southerly buster come through with strong cold winds. The next day, we'd do it all over again. Yeah, the halcyon days of my youth.

Now that I'm older, it's different. It's uncomfortable, energy sapping and worrying. Three states have total fire bans and fire watches. A dozen or more bush and grassland fires are burning already, with more to come as those psychological fuck ups look to appease their desire to see flame. If they chose winter, it wouldn't be so bad, but nooo, Summer; high summer, when the grass crackles underfoot, the sky is a painfully bright blue, the sun slowly spit roasting the pale flesh of office workers taking the day off. Now they come and play with matches.

I've been through fires. Three years ago we had a conflagration of epic proportions with gale force winds pushing the fire towards us. Yeah, we're on the beach, but when the tree in the front yard starts smouldering, you know it's going to be bad. It happened at Christmas and we were without power for four days. Two years ago, I was in Canberra surrounded by fires in neighbouring suburbs. The ash reached the coast some two hundred and sixty kilometres away.

We survived both fires with no damage; others weren't so lucky.

This country is one of extremes; a country where Mother Nature is guaranteed to remind you of who is in charge every single year. From the six month fire season, to the three month gale force wind season, monsoon season, storm season, droughts, floods, she can be a total bitch. And we love it.

Call us a little odd, but this Christmas, Mother Nature is going to kick some butt.

Maybe I'll go down to the beach after all. Later today, we have a severe storm warning with damaging hail and gale force winds. Gotta batten down the hatches, but I'll enjoy MN's largesse before the hammer falls.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Ho, ho... ho... huh... ho

You'd think I'd be nice and relaxed by now. The presents were bought a couple of weeks ago, wrapped last week, menu set this week and food list ready for tomorrow's made dash. I've been muscling up for the fight - it's not shopping, it's war out there - the elbows are sharp for the bumping of those in my way, the lip curl practiced for those who demand and apology. Hah! I've got it down, I know how to do the last minute shop. I've even practiced my deep breathing. Hoo, hoo, hee, hee, for when the doors open at six am.

And yes, nag, nag, nag, I've already advised to do things early, mea culpa. My niece came to stay this week and keeping a twelve year old occupied is task better made for those who started with them, not those of us who came late and snickered at the parental struggles.

I took her to the beach, fed her junk food, played board games, let her surf the 'net unsupervised, play music way too loud, watch unsuitable DVDs and let her stay up far too late. Oh, and allowed her to consume litres of Coke. Heh.

Of course, yesterday was the funeral for Keith, so she was left in the capable hands of her grandmother - who, by the way, raised six children, including a set of twins, all under the age of nine.

For me, it was a long and heartbreaking trip. Four hours drive there, an hour's service, half an hour chatting to relatives, turn around and four hours back. sigh

My niece, it turns out, needed the break from all the 'fun'. She had a relaxing day catching up with her e-mails and chatting with her friends about what she and I got up too. (They're all jealous, but she's said for years every one should have an aunt like her Jaye - insert warm fuzzies here.)

So, back to my point. I am behind in my Christmas preperations. But not for long. I shall tackle the shopping with my usual aplomb - see above - and be totally ready for the big day.

Boxing Day is D-day. By that I mean Dooms-day. My brother, his wife and two urchins will be here, as will my twin sister and her two and my younger sister and her two. Not bad? Uh.... My brother has the patience of Job. My twin can be argumentative, and my youngest sister is passive-aggressive and her two kids are monsters. My eldest brother is safe: he'll be in Denmark with his family; My eldest sister is staying away. And me? Oh, yeah, I'll be in the sanctuary of the kitchen, cooking up a storm. The family will be so stuffed full of food, there'll be naps all around followed by the invasion of the beach and I shall put my feet up and bless my good fortune to have them all.

I don't fight at Christmas. Hell, I rarely fight at all. It's just not worth it, now or ever. I'm not interested in the internal battles of others. It passes. I'll let them have their say, should it need to be said, and again, raise solutions that will be ignored.

Every family is dysfunctional, it's only a matter of degree. It doesn't have to spoil Christmas. You don't have to rise to the bait, or defend someone, or something - like a gift that drops like a bomb.

If your Christmas is like a combat zone, do something different: don't go to family, you're an adult; you can say no. And remember, "What other people think of you is none of your business." Be yourself, be calm and be grateful for your thick-headed, misunderstood, anger-provoking, funny, warm/cold, blind, silly, obtuse, exasperating family.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tough day

It's always tough when a loved one dies. Not passes on, or has gone to his great reward, but dies. I'm tempted to put something Pythonesque here, but it would be inappropriate.

Keith had been a great friend to the family; had, in fact, been my father's best friend since the two were in university together. My dad's been dead nearly fifteen years now, but Keith was still a part of our family. He was my eldest sister's God father.

As kids, we went around to his holiday place and had barbeques, easter egg hunts, beach parties, film nights and generally had the best time. He was always there for us. As he got older, we were there for him; painting his house, mowing his lawns, gardening, visiting for an old fashioned afternoon tea.

He'd send us post cards from exotic places and bring us trinkets and wonderous tales of his adventures. He always said that our family connection went back generations, was adamant about it, in fact, though I never found any connection in my research.

I have telephoned the rest of my family - my mother is just too upset - and we are gathering our resources to be at the funeral. And while no funeral is ever a good time, I fear that this will be the most hurtful since my father died.

I don't want to say goodbye to this wonderful man. I don't want to hear from others how wonderful he was. I want to hold the memories I have of him close and think that he is just where I always found him: sitting in his rocking chair, listening to classical music, dipping his oatmeal biscuit into his to weak and milky tea.

I want to sit next to him and listen to his stories again, to get those postcards and cheap trinkets. I don't want this hollowness, as if another significant part of me has been scoured out. I don't want this emptiness where Keith lived and breathed.

Maybe he's around and will stay to see us all, to make sure we're all right. Maybe he's with my dad, reminiscing about the old days; I'd like that, and I'll think of that. For now, though, I won't say goodbye, but I will say a blessing that his journey is safe.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bloody Preachers!

Right. I am not Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, or any other of those Christian religions that feel an obligation to 'preach the good word' to all those 'heathens' out there, ie, anyone who is not a Christian.

Why am I so pissed off about religion today? This close to Christmas? Because I am fed up with the hypocrasy of it all. Not just the consumerism, but the rhetoric, the deciding what is and is not acceptable to the Christian faith.

For example: the Harry Potter books and movies were branded as evil because of the use of witchcraft; The Chronicles of Narnia are being hailed as a parable of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is right! What gave the church the right to decide which kids book was the more acceptable? Oh, wait. I remember: these are officials in a patriarchal organisation who's personal agenda sets how every Christian should live their life.

Right then. Bitching over; facts time. Questions: What was Jesus doing with the loaves, fishes and water if not magic? Why was it okay for him to do magic and not pagans who had been doing for centuries? If Jesus had been a woman, would it have been more acceptable? Why do people accept the personal interpretation of another's words as gospel?

CS Lewis was not an overly religious man, and his stepson has come out and said the series is not the parable religious groups are claiming it to be.

It hasn't been released here yet, but I understand from other sites that the movie, while spectacular in its' special effects, takes on a preaching tone that is hard to swallow and has proven to be a disappointment to those who loved the books as a child.

I can't tell you how sad that is, nor how angry the religious zealots make me in their pontificating. The movie will be a hit regardless of who says what, if only for the special effects. But. It is a movie. For kids.

Let them enjoy it without the need to preach or convert or comment on the alleged religious aspects.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Seven Memes

At Holly Lisle's Pocket Full of Words, she has written of things 'seven'. I figured I would list my seven, so here goes:

Seven things to do before I die
1. Visit New England in the Fall and run around in the colourful leaves;
2. Publish a book and see it sitting on a shelf, any shelf;
3. Camp at Uluru and watch the sun rise;
4. Learn to snow/water ski;
5. Teach English to the young, since too many kids don't know how to communicate propertly;
6. Fall in love and be loved in return - self-explanatory.
7. Drive a Ferrari/Porsche/Aston Martin...

Seven things I cannot do
1. Maths - sheesh, and my dad was Maths teacher;
2. Explain how/why I know things - or how I reach particular conclusions;
3. Completely grow up - I love my comic and kids movies collections;
4. Paint - although two of my siblings can;
5. Surf - too fearful of the sea creatures with sharp pointy teeth.
6. Understand racial/religious violence;
7. Keep my dog with me forever, she's fifteen and I've had her since she was a puppy.

Seven things that attract me to my significant other
Don't have one, so I can't answer this.

Seven things I say most often
1. Can I help you?
2. Doood/Dooodette
3. Who's a treasure?
4. No.
5. Blossom/Petal
6. Good morning/afternoon.
7. Mwahaha!

Seven books (or serials) I love
1. Anita Blake/Merry Gentry series - Laurell K. Hamilton
2. Honor Harrington series - David Weber
3. Stardoc Series - S.L. Viehl
4. Valour's Choice - Tanya Huff
5. Sympathy for the Devil/Minerva Wakes - Holly Lisle
6. Donovan Trilogy - Nora Roberts
7. Path of the Fury/The Apocalypse Troll - David Weber

Seven movies I watch over and over again
1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy;
2. Appleseed;
3. Pitch Black/Chronicles of Riddick;
4. Starship Troopers;
5. Shrek 1 & 2;
6. Aliens;
7. The Incredibles

There are more books and movies that I re-read/see over again, but I don't think I'd be able to limit my answers to even ten. Why not have a go yourself? It certainly takes careful thought.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hunting Season

It's that time of the year when the politicians ram through as much legislation as they can get away with, the television is showing re-runs of the most awful programmes, the weather is hot and humid, the shops are brimming with people and the mailbox is stuff full of junk mail. Ah, Christmas time, ya gotta love it!

The shop decorations have been out since the first of November with advertisements cajoling that if you don't buy this three hundred dollar present for your precious child, you're the worst parent in the world. Let's not forget the whining of children singing in your ears as you drag them from shop to shop searching for that elusive and perfect gift. Give it up. It won't happen. No matter how hard you try, you will never get the perfect anything for anyone. Close, maybe, but unless they ask specifically for something - and where's the surprise in that - it's a lost cause.

Bah, Humbug!

Yeah, but I'm dripping in smug at the moment because all my hunter/gathering is done. I can sit back and watch everyone else extend their elbows in a blocking move, lower the eyebrows in a threatening manner, growl and snarl as they reach out claw-like fingers for that last Barbie/Bratz/RoboRaptor/whatever before the other man/woman/demon gets it.

I've seen shelves denuded like the Amazon basin, trolleys smash like the Indy 500, weeping, squealing, screaming red-faced children, angry, frustrated, sweating parents and fear-struck, trembling clerks. I've seen catepillar lines of customers at checkouts with over worked and smoking tills. I've heard the tinny Christmas music repeated over speakers adding to the sense of quiet panic and the tantrums thrown by children as an anxious parent tries to put him/her on a red-clad, white bearded, obese stranger.

And there is still two weeks to go. The worst is yet to come, people. It's too late to be reasonable, to be organised, and you only have two options left: leave the children at home and go early or shop online and hope the stuff arrives on time.

Me, I'm one of those horrible, evil, self-satisfied planners. I have to be. I have five siblings, each of whom is married with two children. That's a lot of gifts. If I don't start early, I'm doomed to be inflicted with temper, with the urge to overspend, with the urge to just buy book/store/mall tokens. Can't... let... that... happen! People, I think, like to open presents, not envelopes.

I started early, had my list and began the hunt. Surprisingly, it only took me two days and every store had what I wanted. It doesn't always work out that way, but beginning early so you can relax at Christmas is, for me, the only way to go.

Sure, it upsets my weekend writing schedules, but some things are worth it. Nothing I've bought is the perfect gift, but that's not what matters. What matters is that I took the time to listen throughout the year to my relatives and their wishes, that I wrote it down, that I went out six, eight, ten months later and got what they wanted. The 'oh, how did you know I wanted this?' just adds to the sense of well being. I love my family and it is no big deal to remember what they've said throughout various conversations. It's the giving, not the receiving, that gives us that special feeling of love; that look on a child/teenager/adults face when they unwrap your gift and gasp in astonishment, surprise or wicked glee.

Selfish of me to enjoy all that; in fact billions of people around the world are doomed to suffer the same fate. Under all that sparkle, glitz and glamour of tinsel, baubles and Christmas lights, there is nothing more special than seeing a person glow, and yes, gloat, over a gift you've bought for them.

Remember that as you go out on the hunt and remember the same effort someone else has endured to achieve the same expression you're expecting. It makes it all worth while.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Oil for Food scandal grows

More allegations have been levelled at the Australian Wheat Board's involvement in supplying food to Iraq during the 1990s. The American CIA alleges that the money paid to middle-men in Iraq funnelled part of the $AUS220 million to Saddam's regime and to Palestinian suicide bomber families.

A judicial inquiry has been set up to investigate the allegations made, and I assume the CIA will produce the documents they say prove that the AWB knew of the kickbacks being paid to transport Australian Wheat to where it was most needed. Worse, that the Australian Government knew of the extra money being paid to facilitate the smooth transportation of our wheat into this very lucrative market.

When the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq, Australia had delivered, but had not been paid for, $AUS800 million worth of wheat. Iraq refused to pay, the new government refused to pay, the US refused to clarify the situation and Australia made the wheat a gift to the new struggling nation.

A lot of accusations are coming out of the US in regards to Australia's wheat export to, oh, let's see, countries targeted by American farmers. Preferred markets that Australia has a strong foothold in.

And I am really pissed at the US's accusations. When I first heard about this, I thought it was payback for the lamb incident where by Australia took the US to the International Court over tariffs; the US lost.

Then I read that while the US Government and the CIA are busily sling mud and accusations at us an international politics analyst, Dr Keith Suter, reminded people that it was a board who managed the oil-for-food program under the auspices of the United Nations. Remember that Kofi Annan's son is in trouble for his part in the scandal?

What toasts my buns is the fact that this board is made up of representatives from a number of countries, including the US, the UK, France and Germany. This Board knew what was going on, they managed the program, gave advice to those going in country.

I'd like to know where the accusations are against the board who facilitated and had full knowledge of the Oil-For-Food program. I want to know why the US is accusing the Australian Wheat Board of corruption when Australia had to rely on the recommendations of the Board for facilitating the food transfers. I want to know who from the Board is accepting responsibility for this cluster-fuck and I want to know why, given that the CIA has known about these allegations for some eight years, they chose to reveal it all now?

What is coming up that the CIA has to undermine the credibility of an ally to achieve the US's goal? Has to be agricultural and/or trade, doesn't it. Wheat contracts to Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel or somewhere else? Live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia, perhaps? Beef exports to Japan, maybe? How about sugar or wool?

The one thing we've learned is that the US hates to lose. At anything. To anyone. I can only think that the US will protect its interests, in regards to the Oil for Food scandal, in regards to WMD, in regards to its unfair global trading practices. But, hey, that's international politics.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Future magic

I filched this link from Holly's site, but it's apropros:

Astrology for Writers, Editors and Filmmakers

For November and we all know what happens every November.

gemini: eeegads you poor thing, seems the world is stacking up against you in so many ways. This too shall pass. Into every life a little rain must fall, etc. Chin up, out of this mess will come a better life, and a much more innovative approach to your writing. Spend more time alone now, it is the best way to bring up the new ideas.

December's prognostication is:

gemini: mid february will lift the cloud of frustration that has hung over you for some months. Huge challenges, no joke, have befallen your twisted path. If you can, wait until then to finalize contracts.

Strange, I do have a contract coming up, probably in February, if not sooner; nothing to do with writing. It has been frustrating trying fit into a proper writing schedule. Hmm... maybe things are about to change?

Friday, December 02, 2005


I wasn't going to say anything about this, but...

Today, at 9.00am Australian time, a drug trafficker was put to death in Singapore. Why does this rate a mention? Because Van Nguyen is the first Australian to have a sentence of death carried out for twelve years.

It has, according to the media, split this nation down the middle. I disagree. I could wax lyrical on the pros and cons of the death penalty, but the fundamental truth is: he was caught, he confessed, and he was in a country where there is a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking.

The Singaporean government is using one side of the media attention as a deterrent to other would be drug mules.

Individual Australian Ministers are condemning the practice as barbaric, that no one should die for carrying drugs.

And this is where I disagree.

Van Nguyen was carrying 400 grams of heroin on his body. Apparently, that's enough for 20,000 hits. I don't know if that's true or not, but that's not the point.

Where is the outrage that the heroin, if it had arrived in Australia, may have been cut with a lethal substance? Where is the horror that Van Nguyen could have a killed a dozen or more people here? Why is this facilitator of death more important than the deaths of those addicts on the streets? I haven't seen any of these 'outraged' people helping those addicts, at shelters, calling for more to be done. I haven't seen any of them condemning the drugs brought in to this country.

What we have seen is so called 'safe' injecting rooms. This combats the problem... how? I don't see how it can give addicts a reason to give up. And I have seen drugs destroy people's lives.

So, no. I don't have any sympathy for Van Nguyen. What I do have is sympathy for his mother. One brother has been executed trying to pay of the debt of the other. And what debt was that? The brother was in debt because of... guess what? Drugs charges.

I applaud the government for doing everything it could to save Van Nguyen. I can only hope that other intended drug mules think again before deciding drug running is easy money. It's not worth your life, or the grief caused to your family.