Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Boring Stuff

Yeah, well, I'm up to my eyebrows. Got an Iaido grading coming up, which calls for regular practice and plenty of it. And the ju-jitsu students are going to grade shortly, so I'm working hard with them, too.

Meanwhile, the primary school has asked me to do a few sessions of an introductory martial arts course for the kids there. I never say no to the local primary school if I can help it, so that's going on.

At the same time, the end-of-winter sniffles have arrived, and all three kids of gone down like tin ducks in sideshow alley. Even Elder Son, he of the titanium-plated immune system, is currently lying on the couch reading Calvin and Hobbes, and sniffling.

In the same vein, we hit the end-of-month patch with the Satellite "broadband" deal, and ran out of bandwidth. As usual. It's clicked over today, which is nice - but for some reason, the uplink seems to be a bit sketchy. It was running okay, and then it just randomly throttled back, and I started getting "site not found" bullshit warnings. Possibly Natalie's machine is busy downloading some goddam epic Microsoft update, or something like that. I dunno. I just know it makes working via the 'Net a painful process.

And -- surprise, surprise! -- the National Broadband Network probably won't fucking help. K-Rudd is proving ever more incompetent. He doesn't even know how to deliver a bribe properly. The two areas getting NBN first are North-West Tassie, and North-East Tassie, where I live. Not too coincidentally, both are quite marginal seats.

So, here comes the payoff for our electoral support, right?

Wrong. So far, it looks as though the so-called NBN "roll-out" is going to be restricted to places like Scottsdale, which have ALREADY F--KING GOT ADSL. So if you live, like, ten km outside Scottsdale, there will be no goddam change. Business as usual: shitty, expensive, unreliable, high-maintenance satellite, or even-more-expensive Next-G which doesn't work because of the poor coverage and the hilly terrain. Or dial-up. Yeah, wow... that's a good one, eh?

Thank you, Mr Rudd. Why don't you drop by sometime? If you're going to blow smoke up my arse, you might as well do it in person, eh?

All right. I've gotta get back to it. I've got two off-colour kids lying around the place, a monster pile of laundry to do, a Spanish lesson to put together for the afternoon, a flyer to write and print for the afternoon's martial arts class, and I still haven't written any goddam fiction since Monday.

This sucks.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ISP Issues

Just a short note. And it will probably take all morning to post.

As you know, we're on satellite. It's a "shaped plan", so we get a few gig of 'prime time' at moderately useful speed (about 500kbps, I believe) and a few more of 'off peak', and then the whole lot gets throttled back to 54kbps or something similar. Theoretically.

54kbps is dial-up pace, for those who live anywhere with real connectivity.

Anyway. For the last 24 hours or so, we've had shitty, shitty connectivity. Thought it might be due to exceeding the 'prime time' allocation, so I ponied up for an extra bloc of data - but there's been no change. I tried phoning the satellite johnnies, but all I got was half an hour of hold message. Apparently there are "intermittent browsing issues" which their "engineers will rectify shortly".

Does that explain my situation? I don't know. Certainly, it's not just browsing for me. Email sucks too. Is it a result of technical error at their end? Throttling? Technical issues at my end? Shitty Tasmanian weather?

I have no way of knowing. I can't get through to the support desk. I've sent in an email, but I doubt that will produce any result. I can't get through on the phone.

So that's it, really.

I'll get back to you when I can. If you're trying to email me, or you're awaiting a reply for something, please be patient. I can't do anything about it until I can consult with the support people for activ8me -- and I can't contact them until they solve their "intermittent browsing issues".

Roll on, National Broadband Network, eh?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Robin Hood In A Flannelette Shirt...

Yeah, I like a bit of archery. Have done for a long time. But I've been stuck with this goddam compound thing, about 30kg+ in draw, with all the pulleys and the hunter-stuff, and frankly, I never really enjoyed it. I like my archery fairly primitive, I guess: a bowstave, a string, an arrow and a target.

Really, I do the arrow-shooting thing in the spirit of kyu-do -- as a form of meditation, to chill out and empty my head. Possibly because I've been doing it longer, I find that sending a few flights downrange is even more relaxing than spending half an hour practising iaido drills.

Anyway, a while back the string on the big compound motherforker got a bit more frayed than I felt comfortable with. You really, really do NOT want one of those bastards explosively de-tensioning next to your ear... or frankly, anywhere within a couple metres of you. There's an awful lot of stored energy in a powerful compound bow.

Logically, I should have got it restrung. But... I've had it ten years, and it was secondhand when I got it, and it really doesn't suit my needs. And on top of that, getting one of those puppies restrung in Tasmania is, apparently, quite a trick. I hear a rumour there may possibly be somebody in Hobart who can do it. But not up this end of the state, apparently.

So I thought: to hell with it. I got down a full jar of change, and when the boys went into gym yesterday, I ducked down to the bank in Launceston, and cashed in all those coins. Then, armed with about $250, I bought myself a nice, simple 15kg draw bow, and a few new arrows to go with it.

"Simple" is probably a minor exaggeration. There are two laminated arms that bolt onto a heavy, laminated centrepiece. But there are no pulleys, and you string it yourself every time you want to use it. And even though there are innumerable mounts for counterweights and sights and balances and shite -- there's no rule that says I have to use 'em.

I got the bow home, and when I could steal a moment, I tried out a couple of the new fibreglass arrows. I've never shot fibreglass before, and I wondered about them. They were thinner than I was used to, and a little shorter, although still nicely within the proper draw-length for my arms.

Well, they flew okay and the bow felt good, so I put it away and got back to kid-wrangling.

Today, though -- today I decided I'd have a 'proper' shot. I built a nice little backstop with some old tyres (a bit of give so stray arrows don't shatter on impact), popped a cardboard box full of cardboard and polystyrene scraps in front, and went back about 20m.

I know. 20m isn't much, really. But I was just getting the feel of the bow, and besides, Natalie wasn't home -- so I pretty much had to expect the boys would want to shoot alongside me. (I bought them a lightweight fibreglass kids/beginner's bow a couple years back. They love it; particularly Younger Son.) 20m is a good distance for them, with that bow.

And it was nice. We took turns, arrow-for-arrow. I offered a few corrections here and there. Younger Son finally found the range, shooting (with his short arms!) up at an angle of about thirty=five degrees, and he was delighted. And I found the target pretty quickly at that distance, so that was okay too.

Then it happened. One of the new fibreglass arrows went through the centerline/top of my improvised cardboard target. It bounced off the tyres behind, but didn't come all the way free of the top flap of the box. Instead, the arrow hung down across the target box from top to bottom, like a centreline.

Naturally, I used it as an aiming guide. I mean, it's not like I was actually gonna hit it or anything. And remember: these are rounded, target-point arrows. And the shafts are goddam fibreglass -- they're very hard, and very smooth. So what do you reckon the odds of THIS happening would be?

Robin frickin' Hood, eat your Lincoln Greens.

I have to hand it to those little fibreglass arrows, though. Once I pulled the killer arrow out of its victim, the wounded shaft closed up neatly. Out of curiosity, I nocked it and let fly. And what do you know? Bullseye.

I think that as my older arrows gradually die, I'll continue replacing them with the fibreglass variety. They're not particularly expensive, and honestly, they do a hell of a job. It's not very traditional, but who cares? I reckon they'd have been glad of 'em at Crecy or Agincourt -- and Robin Hood wouldn't think twice about it.

Idle Moments #2

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hidden Dilemma Of Parenting

I don't mind most of parenting, and there's parts of it I quite like. I'm fond of my kids. Spending time with them, doing stuff with 'em, helping 'em grow and learn: that's all good. And I can hack the obvious downsides: cranky kids, lack of sleep, idiotic fights, nappies and toilet training and all that nonsense.

But there's one element of parenting which is quite insidious, and almost impossible to describe to someone who has not already been a parent for years -- and that's the organisational stuff.

D'you remember what it was like to just clear your schedule? To just kick back, throw off your shoes and let the day take care of itself? To wake up, then roll over and go back to sleep just because you can?

If you don't remember any of that, you're not a parent. You don't remember it because it's not something you bother remembering. It's part of the life of any sane, normal, non-parenting adult. You've got commitments to work and society, probably, yes. And you may have commitments to a relationship. And when those are out of the way, you might even have self-inflicted commitments to fitness and health and hobbies.

But in between, there are little pockets of time you can call your own. You don't have to arrange them. They just happen, because the time you haven't specifically dedicated to other things belongs to you. That's the nature of the universe, right?


I wake up at 0700 every morning. It's not the kids any more. I'm upstairs, and they're quiet enough, and Natalie usually handles the breakfast run. But I wake up anyway, even if I was up to 0130 working - which I was, this morning.

The first thing I think about: what time does Natalie need to be out of the house? And if it's early, then that's it for me -- I'm up, out of bed, dressed, and downstairs to make lunches and take the reins for the day. If Natalie has a bit of time up her sleeve, though, I may try snoozing until 0730. But it's not a 'natural right': it's a careful, considered decision, no matter how tired I may be.

And my entire day, every day: where do the kids need to be? How long will they be there? What do I have to organise for the morning/afternoon/evening/night? How do I fit my personal work and household duties around what the kids are doing?

Even as I write this, I'm on the clock. I've been checking my email. I've already cleaned up after breakfast, and dispatched the daughter with Neighbour Anna off to daycare. Meanwhile, one of Neighbour Anna's kids is here with the boys. They have another forty minutes of playtime before I load them into the car and we go to Launceston so they can do the gymnastics thing. That's another thirty minutes I can have here -- or anywhere else I need to be -- before I have to start packing, organising, and chivvying kids.

And so it goes, the rest of the day. The kids will be done with gym by a quarter of twelve. I'll need to organise a lunch for them. There are a few errands to run in Launceston. Then when we get back, they'll have another hour or so to play before the daughter gets returned... which means I'd better do a bit of grocery shopping in Launceston to prep for dinner. And Natalie may or may not be on call tonight... must check. And I need to run the pump, too, so I'd better bring the fuel bottle and get some petrol.

Now, the insidious thing about this is that there are no breaks, no holidays to speak of. If you've got a compassionate partner, you get some down time and some alone time -- but it always, always has to be planned and set up, and so whenever you've got some of that precious downtime coming to you, inevitably you plan things for it.

You remember what it was like just to spontaneously throw all your plans out the window for a day? I do -- at least, I think I do. Random road-trips with unexpectedly arriving friends. Days where I got caught up in the gravity well of somebody's back deck, lazy in the sun with beer and backyard cricket.

Sure, I can still have beer on the deck and backyard cricket: but the time has to be allotted and planned for. There's no point where I can simply go yeah, fuck it, the rest of the day will take care of itself, man -- because it simply will not take care of itself.

It gets into your head.

On Wednesday, Natalie unexpectedly agreed to handle dinner. Neighbour Anna took the boys to gym, and then kept 'em at her place for the afternoon to play. The Mau-Mau was at daycare. And Natalie went on a bike ride.

I was left alone, in an unplanned window. It fair did in my bloody head.

First I thought I'd write, but I kept zoning out - thoughts of dinner and errands kept cropping up, interrupting me. Unplanned time to write? That doesn't happen, does it? Must be something else you have to do.

So I thought I'd hit the garden. And I did a bit of hoeing and weeding, but the whole time, I had this feeling that I was skipping out on something - that I'd forgotten some vital matter. It was creepy as hell. I'd find myself stopping in mid-work, trying to remember, trying to recall... and then I'd realise that no, no... the time was mine. I didn't have to prepare for dinner, or go shopping or anything. I could choose to do what I wanted.

Most of the afternoon, I drifted badly. One task to another. I didn't achieve much. I was pretty tired - long night beforehand - so I tried napping, but I kept waking up from dreams where I'd lost or forgotten stuff. And come dinnertime, with Natalie making sushi, I was jittery, nervy... it felt wrong.

Planned. Everything is planned, even if only loosely, in terms of time. Spontaneous trip down an interesting side-road? Only if you know you'll get home in time for feeding and bathing and all that stuff. Random trip to the beach? Oh, that's not random: first you have to make sure the doctor's schedule is cleared. Then you've got to consider how long the kids will be able to deal with the place. And you absolutely have to make plans for food, and shade, and sunscreen, towels and changes of clothes, and what do you say when the boys want to invite a friend?

It's all planned. Not minute-by-minute, no, but definitely bloc by bloc, with certain fixed points occurring 'most every day, like known rocks or reefs to be navigated. And even when you do get time out, down-time, unplanned time, there's always the certain knowledge that it's going to end. You know to the day, the hour, the minute when you're due to resume your duties, and everything you do is calculated to fit into that window of 'open time'.

It isn't your life any more. Like a classy thief in a complicated heist movie, you plan everything to perfection so you can steal back precious jewels of time to call your own.

This is the bit I can't explain properly - the bit every parent will understand innately, but virtually nobody else will truly feel. It really isn't your life any more. The 'default setting' to which you revert is no longer that of 'single or paired adult'. It is now 'parent', and that means no rolling over and going back to sleep without careful decision-making: not now, nor for the next fourteen or fifteen years.

I wish, just once, I could remember properly what it felt like to be bored and aimless, at a loose end.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey -- A Competition Of Possible Interest

There's an array of Australian spec fiction books to be had for the successful entrants of a competition being held at A Writer Goes On A Journey. For those of you who just like reading this stuff (or even watching) you can enter in the 'review' section. And for those getting their toes wet in writing, you can shoot for the Flash Fiction (500 words) section.

The books are pretty nifty. (One of 'em is an anthology with a contribution from yours truly.) It's a bit Australian-oriented in terms of ability to enter -- calls for an Australian postal address, which I think is a bit rough on our Kiwi compatriots at the very least -- but if an Oz postal address is the only requirement... well, how difficult can it be to come to an accommodation with a friendly Australian?

Free books and a bit of fun. What else could you possibly want?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead!

Telstra Forced To Separate

Oh, yeah. Sure.

I'll believe it when I can actually get a different carrier out here. Or maybe even ADSL access. Until then, it's all just bullshit. If it's Telstra vs the Rudd Government, my money is on the Evil Empire.

An Idle Moment

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hmm. Technical Idea For Use At Some Point...

The brain of a writer -- particularly a science fiction writer -- is a weird thing. One has Ideas. Frequently. But with the pace of technological development, it's not unusual to find that the nifty new idea you've had is already in development by somebody, somewhere. And then again, the prospect of trying to nail down and make money out of any of these ideas... too damned painful for words, really.

And so I shan't be collecting any royalties on movies-for-rent-by-download, which system was dreamed up sometime back in the eighties during a particularly stoned evening (as much by Dugg --MHRIP! -- as by myself, I admit!) Nor will I be getting credit for the Internet Fridge, which I described in detail to Natalie, back in 1996 when I was trying to explain that this "Internet" thing was going to become quite important to everyday life. (Anyway, my version was better than theirs. Mine had a barcode scanner, so you could keep track of the expiry dates on the milk and stuff. And it had software that automatically contacted your local supermarket and put in an order as required...)

Not really important. It's just interesting considering these things, you know?

Anyway, I was just reading up on E-Ink again. If you don't know about this stuff already, you're a bit behind the times. It's a low-power data display system utilising microscopic, pigmented beads suspended in a flexible matrix. They use it for E-books, and it's cool because the display is persistent (only needs power to change) and it's reasonably durable and it's flexible, and they're about to release a colour version of it. Best of all, it relies on reflected light -- it's a 'true image' rather than a 'light image' such as you get from CRTs and LEDs and OLEDs and even from backlight LCDs.

Apparently, the advertising industry is excited by it too. Imagine billboards that can change at the press of a button, to take on any image you can send. Cool, eh?

And then I thought... oh. You know who could really use this stuff? The military. Because, you know -- camouflage is good, yeah, but imagine coating your big-ass trucks and guns and tanks and ships and planes in a layer of this stuff. And incorporating a few cameras here and there, and a single processor to read the images and alter the image on your E-ink surfaces appropriately.

You know: so that whatever was behind or beneath your big military toy got projected onto its surface. Just as if the big military toy wasn't actually in the way.

It wouldn't be invisibility, precisely, no. Difficult to account for parallax and angles and so forth. But it would be seriously fucking effective active camouflage, able to change at an instant's notice to match whatever theatre of war, whichever environment you happened to be hiding in.

Naturally, it wouldn't alter your IR image, nor soak up your EM signature, nor even confuse radar. But it sure as shit would make a difference to satellite and aerial photography, and it would definitely make your old-school Man-With-A-Pair-Of-Binoculars work very, very hard indeed.

It's feasible right now, with current tech. Expensive, yes - but definitely not outside the range of typical military expenditures. And of course, you'd make the stuff modular, so you could just smooth it on like sticky wallpaper; put a new layer on over the top of any damaged stuff.

Pretty cool idea. Think I should bother trying to get credit for it?

Nahhhh. That way lies madness. I'll just incorporate 'invisible tanks' into a story sometime, somewhere, and shrug my shoulders when the real-world military announces how clever they've become. My Invisible Tank can go sit in the garage with my Internet Fridge and my Echo-Locating Mobile Phone and all the rest of that stuff.

I've got lots more to play with anyhow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If A Tree Falls In Your Back Yard And Nobody Hears, Who The Fuck Has To Clean It Up?

So yeah: that would be the branch that fell off the tree in the back yard. Now you know why I'm trying to find some hero with a chainsaw and one of those flatbed trucks with the mini-crane on the back.

That's Blackwood, you see. Acacia melanoxylon -- one of the wattle family. The timber is very high quality, prized by instrument-makers among others, and there's a sizably long, satisfactorily straight chunk of it now sprawled across my back paddock. I'm not too bad with a chainsaw, but I am definitely not game to try and cut the supports out from underneath what looks like a tonne or so of hardwood suspended about two and a half metres above the ground.

What I want to do is get it trimmed down to a couple of five-metre logs or so, then shifted to a dry spot near one of our sheds. I'll put down some old tyres or something, and throw a tarp over the top, and with a bit of luck in a few years we can send the thing to the sawmill. Or is it the other way round? Sawmill first, then season the planks? I dunno. I'm sure someone can tell me. What I do know: I am not qualified to handle this one.

Right. Looks like it's about time to start dinner. Still got a bunch of things to do -- cleaning, tidying... I finished planting strawberries in the new strawberry-thingee today, so with a bit of luck in a couple months we'll be seeing the first of a shiny new crop. Yum. And yes, this time they're protected by fence from wallaby and rabbit, protected by netting from birds, lifted off the ground to keep slugs and field mice at bay... and now lifted even higher, with the potential for added mosquito-netting if the goddam grasshoppers go apeshit like they did last year. Shit, the things I have to do to grow a decent feed of strawberries! Lucky the blackberries aren't so picky.

Thought for the day:

Flinthart's Corollary to Goldman's Thesis: "Dance All You Want, Sweetheart -- But It Ain't A Revolution Until Someone Puts The Fat Bastards Against The Wall And Shoots 'Em."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Further Conversations In The Ineffable

"What if God was a gigantic chicken?"

Yep. Younger Son has taken flight. I'm not even gonna pause in my driving. I've gotta get down the hill to Neighbour Anna's place, pick up two of her boys, then drive into Launceston so her kids and mine can take in a morning of gymnastics at the PCYC. "As I understand it," I says, cool as St Frigidaire the Theologian, "God can be whatever he wants to be. So, you know - he could be a gigantic chicken. Yeah."

From the back seat, thoughtfully: "But... what if he was only a gigantic chicken?"

"Nope. He can be whatever he wants. By definition. Or he's not God, right?"

"Yes, but it would explain a lot, wouldn't it?"

I wrestle the Mighty Earth King around the corner into the dirt road that runs up to Neighbour Anna's place. The winds -- the equinoctial gales of Spring -- have arrived a little early. We lost a gigantic limb from the big old blackwood last night. It's fallen to earth, propped on its secondary branches, big enough to be a decent-sized tree in its own right. I'll have to find someone to help me cut the main log so we can season it for timber; blackwood is a beautiful, valuable wood, and there's a lot of it on the ground right now. And the same winds that knocked it down are bellowing around the car, pushing it back and forth while I ponder Younger Son's last gnomic prognostication.

"I don't get it," I admit finally. "Explain what?"

"Well, if God was a gigantic chicken, it would explain why he's not doing a very good job of looking after the world, wouldn't it?"

Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. We've had this discussion, the boys and I: on the plausibility of a God, and an all-seeing, all-loving Creator who looks after his patch. And no matter how often I present the idea that we simply aren't equipped to comprehend the awesomeness of Godly plans, both boys seem to think that wars, starvation, disease, pollution, privation, natural disasters and man-made fuckups on a global scale speak very, very poorly of the record of any self-respecting God. And... Cthulhu help me... I can't find it in me to argue with them on that point. So: Younger Son's suggestion that perhaps God is a gigantic chicken does, perhaps, have some merit, viewed through the peculiarly skewed lens of Younger Son logic.

I mean. How else do you explain things like Rush Limbaugh and Stephen Conroy?

"Yeah, but if God is only a gigantic chicken, then by definition he's not really God," I insist. Theology to the fore! I can argue imaginary stuff as well as any medieval pole-sitter, surely?

It doesn't matter. Younger Son is on a roll. "And imagine all the people who have been worshipping him," he says. "If they found out he was a gigantic chicken. Aaaah! they'd scream. We've been worshipping a chicken! A great, big, stupid chicken! Aaaah!" And then, completely bamboozled by his own imagery, he breaks into uproarious giggles.

And, Cthulhu help me, I'm right behind him. Heh. Imagine if God was a gigantic chicken, eh? Wouldn't the Pope look like a right tosser? And all those rabbis, all those imams... imagine the look on all those beardy faces, confronted with the Holiest of Holy Fowl. Oh! Oh! And just think of the inheritors of Colonel Sanders! Ha!

Just another day in the Realm of Flinthart the Lesser...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What The Hell Is This?

What is this?

Well, if you guessed 'an angry Coke bottle', you're considerably more perspicacious than anyone has a right to be. But if you guessed 'a hand-drawn and completely inexplicable Father's Day card created by Flinthart's demented Younger Son and delivered sometime around dawn's buttcrack on Sunday while Flinthart was still in bed wondering how to turn it all off', you're absolutely extraordinary. And if by some incredible feat of psychiatric alchemy you have managed to divine the underlying link between 'an angry Coke bottle' and 'Happy Father's Day' -- please, for the love of my sanity contact me at once. I haven't yet mustered up the courage to try prying into the bewildering labyrinth of Younger Son's baroquely twisted imaginings.

Yep. That was my Father's Day morning. The Elder Son made a card too, and the Mau-Mau gave me a certificate for a free hug, and brought me an enormous mass of slightly second-hand helium balloons which were hanging around after her official birthday party the day before.

Mmm. Secondhand helium balloons.

I duly did the proper fatherly thing, and set a hideously bad example: ripped the end off a balloon, sucked back a lungful of helium, and roared out a Mickey Mouse-voiced verse of Advance Australia Fair to greet the morning and delight the offspring. Do Not Try This At Home. Helium Isn't Oxygen. If You Try To Breathe It Too Long You Will Pass Out.

At least, that's what it said on the helium cylinder. Jeez, they're horny for warning labels these days, aren't they? They also carefully included instructions about not trying to inhale the stuff straight from the tank for fear of (and I'm not exaggerating here: I'm quoting) rupturing your lung sacs and drowning in your own blood.

Long gone, it seems, are the days when you could harmlessly neck a little of the universe's most non-toxic substance out of a balloon and amuse the kiddies with potty-mouthed Donald Duck impressions. The world gets a little smaller, a little more mean-spirited and boring every fricking day, apparently. Fuck you, Fun Nazis. There are still some balloons lying around the house today. There's a damned good chance I may even do some helium-powered cricket commentaries in the near future... take that!

I have to admit that the breakfast in bed experience wasn't too terrible, though. I got a big mug of green tea (lukewarm. Why was that? I never did find out, though Elder Son apologised in advance) and two slabs of whole-grain toast with avocado and fresh-ground Mountain Pepper. And of course, I got a triple wriggling armful of kids. Oh, and Elder Son recorded some bizarre Father's Day messages for me on his el cheapo MP3 player. Man, he loves the voice-recorder function on that thing...

The Mau-Mau's party the day before went very nicely. Both boys pulled the plug early, begging desperately for permission to spend the day visiting friends. Permission was duly granted, though Natalie was a little miffed.

"The Mau-Mau went to their pirate parties and Godzilla parties and joined in," she said. "How come they don't want to come to her fairy princess party?"

Indeed. Who can imagine why two noisy, robust boys might not enjoy a houseful of four-year-old girls in pink dresses, being fairy princesses? Especially when said fairy princesses like nothing better than ordering everybody in sight to fetch and carry, etc?

Did I mention there were helium balloons? Naturally, they were colour co-ordinated. And there were an awful lot more than this.

I made parfaits. All fairy princesses like parfaits, apparently.

Also, there were lollipops. And face painting.

I did the face-painting. It looked a lot better before an hour's worth of fairy princess playtime eroded it. I painted two fairy princess clowns, three fairy princess cats, and one fairy princess dog. Really, there should have been more photos...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Save The Dragons

Dave Freer is one of the more off-beat, funny and pleasant figures of SF. I had the great pleasure of meeting him a few years back at a con in Melbourne, and then he and his good wife dropped by Chez Flinthart on their trek through Tassie. He gets the Flinthart "Yarrrharrrr! Avast!" of approval with both lungs.

Anyway, for the last few years Dave has been working his way towards becoming an expatriate South African. Cunningly, he plans to do it in Australia, which is a lot easier than doing it in South Africa - so I'm told, anyway.

Problem is, Dave has a lot of critters: a much-loved collection of rescued dogs and cats and he really, really wants to bring them with him. However, you can't bring a critter from SA to Oz without copious quarantinage, and that, my friends, costs a bomb. And a half.

Dave's response? He has set up a website where he's posting chapters of a book he's written that's not yet seen publication. For every $400 raised he's putting up a new chapter. Folk who donate more than $25 will receive a signed copy of the book once it does see hardcopy publication.

This isn't ex-President Winston Kudogo of Nigeria, mi amigos. This is the real thing, and it's a chance to offer a helping hand to someone inside the SF industry who deserves all the help we can give him. Even a couple of bucks would be helpful.. There's more information at the actual site -- which is where I'm going right now, to toss a few dollars into the virtual hat.

PS: Yes, Birmo. He writes Science Fiction too.